Monday, 7 August 2006

The frustrations of technology

When it comes to technology, we are still a long way short of the foolproof stage. I have had the living daylights annoyed out of me over the last few weeks.

To start with, I bought a you-beaut Netgear network attached storage device - we now have about 300GB sitting on the network at home that we can all share. It's good. I can recommend it. It set me back about $360, which isn't bad at a bit over $1 per GB. It was fairly easy to setup, and I have now moved all my music onto it. My PC isn't that new anymore, and my ripped collection of CD's had taken up just a wee bit too much room.

Trouble is, the blasted external power supply has a dodgy connection and the power cable seems to work its way out of the socket from time to time and the flipping thing disappears off the network. The best way to tell if it is alive is simply to have i-tunes playing some music and if the music stops, the poor little blighter has lost power. I am thinking I will have to gaffer tape the plug into the socket to prevent it from coming loose.

I used to have a lot more than 4GB of music. However, that was before I bought Her Ladyship and iPod and decided that I would like to use it too.

You see, I originally ripped my hundreds of CD's with Realplayer, and it stores music in a WMV format. itunes can't read WMV, so I either had to rip the whole lot again with itunes, or find something that would do a batch conversion job on the whole lot to MP3 format.

So I did a bit of googling and found some shareware that would do the job. I duly downloaded it and started to convert my music in batches of about 5 CD's at a time. It would take about a minute per song to convert, so doing the whole lot would easily take all night. I got fed up with having to stuff more songs into it every hour, so I simply rammed my whole collection into it and went to bed.

The next morning, I got up, fired up itunes and pointed it at my collection. It managed to find about 1,000 songs. I was wondering whether the other 7000 were. When I finally got around to actually looking in the folders, I found that the only thing they contained was the album art. The stupid shareware had misfired after a few hundred tracks and had decided to convert the rest, but rename them all with the same name. I had 7000 copies of "reflections of remoh" by The Bloodhound Gang.

Three choices:
  • Listen to each song, rename it and stuff it into the right folder
  • Delete them all and re-rip the lot
  • Just play all the songs and to hell with what they are called
Well, I tried number 1 and soon got sick of it. I also tried number 3 and also got sick of it - especially after a few requests from Her Ladyship along the lines of "Can you find all the Queen songs?".


Option 2 is the only was to go. If this rain keeps up, I know what I will be doing. Feeding CD after CD into my PC. God, the last time was boring enough. This is going to be hell.

However, what I am looking for is a good iPod connector for the car. I have looked at a few online, but I don't want a stupid FM transmitter. I want one that replaces the 6 CD stacker. I'm currently waiting for the prices to come down to something reasonable.

Anyway, that was tech-wreck number 1.

Number 2 appeared when I updated ZoneAlarm. For some years, I have depended on ZoneAlarm to firewall off all the nasties from my PC, and it has done a pretty good job.

However, when I did the last update, something went seriously wrong. Suddenly, I did not have enough admin priviledges to even shut the PC down. Applications failed to run. And to cap it all off, ZoneAlarm would not install - no matter what. I was starting to wonder whether a complete PC rebuild was on the cards.

Solution - re-install SP2 and then attempt to remove ZoneAlarm. It appeared to uninstall, but the PC would not shutdown gracefully afterwards. I had to yank the power cable to turn it off. Now, after a few reboots, it seems to be behaving itself.

Except that FTP no longer works with Firefox. Something really strange is going on here. It will work with IE, but not Firefox. I can only surmise that ZoneAlarm has overwritten and really screwed some files. I guess I will have to now remove and re-install Firefox. Damn and blast.

The third tech wreck came when I bought an 80GB Topfield digital video recorder. It's a great little beast, and it is supposed to be able to record about 40 hours of TV at a high standard. I will talk more about it later.

Just one problem with it - the Electronic Program Guide (EPG) is a waste of space because none of the commercial stations are able to keep to their program. If I tell it to record say CSI, it will start recording at 8.30pm and finish an hour later. Problem is, most stations run a bit late, so I always miss the last 10 minutes. Channel 10 is a disaster - I just tell it to start recording at say 8.30pm and to record for 2 hours. That way, even if some complete pile of crap like Big Brother runs and hour late, I will still get my show.

This creates a big problem - suddenly, I am recording twice the amount of material that I want to. Before I bought it, I was tossing up between the 80GB model, the 160GB model and the 250GB model. I figured that 80GB would be more than we would ever need. It would be, if I only had to use 1 hours worth of storage to record a 1 hour show. I am now starting to think about buying a 300GB hard drive for it. It's cut out a few times now part way through recording something because it has run out of space.


And to cap it off, when I try to Bittorrent the truncated show in question, I find that no one is seeding it, so I can't download it. Blasted worms.

The final tech wreck was sorted out at last today. We were very kindly given an old laser printer a few weeks ago - it's so old, it's probably belongs in a museum. It has a 10BaseT port in the back, not 100MB. When did everything start moving from 10MB to 100MB? Sometime in the mid 1990's perhaps? It's that old.

Because it has an ethernet card, I thought I'd be smart and try and network it at home. After all, that's the point of the networking card. My first assumption was that when I plugged it in, it would just pick up a DHCP address. Or even BOOTP.

Ha ha ha.


So I tried to find out the network configuration through the LCD screen.

Menu item doesn't exist.

So I then thought I'd print out the configuration pages to see what IP address it was using.

But just how do you print that out? Took about half an hour to work it out. Although a sticker on the side said it was set to, it was in fact set to The first address would be fine, but I couldn't find out how to change or release or reset the address that it had. I might try unscrewing the card at some point and see if there is a reset button on it.

Anyway, I dicked around with it all morning, trying to make my PC talk to it on No dice. A friend came over and he tried as well.

No dice.

I was then reduced to rooting around in the garage looking for a parallel cable. Remember them? I don't. I had honestly forgotten what they looked like. And of course my PC doesn't even have a parallel port. Had to connect it to the other PC in the office and network it via that.

It's free, so I won't call it a pile of crap. Free crap is not to be sneezed at.

Heck, I had forgotten one last technical disaster. I synch'd my mobile with my address book not long ago. Then I discovered that most of the contacts in my mobile had disappeared, or a contact would be there but no number - but maybe an address or an email address. As far as people at work were concerned, I now had their internal PABX numbers in my mobile, rather than their external numbers. Gee, that's useful.

That meant I had to do a cleanout on the phone, which was not small task and it contained hundreds and hundreds of contacts. The big problem came when I went to ring some people - I found out that the phone now contained obsolete numbers that they had not used in years.

Crap. Double crap. I am lost without this thing.

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