22 June 2007

Stargate SG-1

Hard to believe it's been ten years, but tonight was the series finale of SciFi channel's Stargate SG-1. This series is one of my all-time top three science fiction television shows, currently ranking only below Star Trek: TNG and X-Files.

Okay, confession time. I've only seen a handful of SG-1 episodes in the last three to four seasons. I started watching SG-1 because of Richard Dean Anderson (Go, MacGyver!!!) and when he left as a regular in season seven(?) I lost most of my desire to watch. I did make a point of watching the first few episodes without him, when Bridges, Bowder, and Black joined the cast, but for me it just wasn't the same without Anderson's Colonel Jack O'Neill. I tried to catch the episodes where RDA made guest appearances, but it's difficult when I'm no longer paying close attention to the series. The same thing happened with X-Files. Go figure.

I did watch the series finale, Unending. I enjoyed it, despite my disappointment at RDA's absence. I won't spoil it, except to say that I appreciated and was pleased to have them refer to the Fifth Race, first mentioned in the first season. I thought it was a nice touch.

I read that TPTB are making two direct to DVD SG-1 movies, and that Amanda Tapping, who plays Colonel Samantha Carter, will be joining the ongoing SG-1 spinoff, Stargate Atlantis.

Anywhoo, kudos and thanks to the cast, crew, producers and everyone else involved in making such a wonderful, enjoyable series.

21 June 2007

Computer woes


This post is an update to my ongoing tribulations trying to get my new computer to work the way I want it to.

Last night, after a ten hour workday, I spent seven hours trying to get my computer with Windows Vista to work the way I want it to work, and the way I would have hoped a new computer *should* work out of the box. I thought I was being clever, waiting 4-5 months, after the initial roll out of Vista, to allow some time for the bugs to be worked out. Unfortunately, my old computer forced my hand earlier than I might have wished.

Initially, despite several minor issues, I was happy with Vista. Actually, I guess I still am. Most of my frustration stems from 3rd party software that says it’s “Vista-certified” but, at least for me, isn’t.

After waiting a few days for a response to my most recent e-mail to Trend Micro customer support I decided to give up on Trend Micro Internet Security 2007, despite have two thirds of my paid prescription remaining (note: this morning I did receive a reply from customer support, asking for additional debugging log files). My plan was to uninstall IS2007, install PC-cillin 2007 antivirus software, and then install the free version of Zone Lab’s amazing firewall, ZoneAlarm. Shouldn’t take too long, right? ::sigh::

The first mistake was my fault. I made an error in judgment. To uninstall IS2007, I decided to use one of the more thorough methods described to me in one of Trend Micro’s e-mails. I was trying to be methodical, so after installation I tried to sync with my HTC s260 since I’ve had Windows Mobile Device Center and sync issues before. Sync worked fine.

I installed PC-cillin 2007. At first it seemed okay, but the main console wouldn’t open correctly. The window was there, but it was blank. Okay, now there were two blank windows. Now three. Eh? I couldn’t close the proliferating windows fast enough. I managed to open Task Manager and saw that my computer was running at 100%, continuously. I ended up performing a hard restart.

Restarted. When I tried PC-cillin 2007, blank consoles proliferated as before. Another hard restart. Restarted in safe-mode, but… I can’t open the start menu?! How am I supposed to uninstall the antivirus software? Restarted in normal mode.

I decided to use system restore to reach a point before I realized the IS2007 virus scan wasn’t working and before I contacted Trend Micro customer support. System restore failed; I don’t know why, but the error message said so. I restored to a more recent date. A-okay.

I uninstalled IS2007 using “add/remove programs”. Tested sync, it worked. I installed PC-cillin 2007. After installation, PC-cillin says you don’t need to reboot. I strongly suggest you do; it will save you time and help avoid experiencing déjà vu. I tried a scan and… it worked! Huzzah!

I tested sync and it still worked. I then installed ZoneAlarm, or tried to. At 19% complete BLUE SCREEN of DEATH. Ummm… eh? I tentatively restarted. Oookay, seems alright. I checked the “add/remove programs” list to see if ZoneAlarm is present. Nope. After that I was going to... but, oh no, there’s that persnickety BLUE SCREEN of DEATH.

Restarted. This time I deactivated SpySweeper and AV, something I should have done originally. I tried to install ZoneAlarm. It worked! Nice to see you! Better, yet, sync still worked. I went to Shields UP and tested the effectiveness of ZoneAlarm. Perfect! Unlike the IS2007 firewall.

But I needed to get some Windows updates. Uh oh. Windows Updates didn't work. Clicking “Try again” was futile no matter how many times I tried. Luckily, I found help online. I needed to empty the files in folder “SoftwareDistribution”. Unfortunately, this wasn't so easy since some files simply refused to be moved. So I cut and pasted, renamed, cut and pasted, and somehow, through all of that, although not moving everything in the folder, Windows update worked. Huzzah!

Hmm, six important updates, and two optional, one of which was an update to the Windows Mobile Device Center. The end was in sight. I downloaded and installed all eight. The optional update for my printer failed. But this always happened before, and I can still print, so I couldn’t care less at this point. Restarted.

Tested sync one last time. Uh, oh. Sync not working?! Aaaaaaargh. End was not in sight.

I couldn't figure out how to uninstall the Windows Mobile Device Center update. Frustration, sleepiness, and impatience started winning. I picked a system restore point prior to installation of the updates and went for it. Aaaaaargh. Sync still didn’t work. I don’t get it. Why??? I uninstalled Windows Mobile Device Center using “add/remove programs”. Hmm, Windows updates wasn’t working again. This time there was no goofing around with cutting and pasting. Delete, delete delete. I downloaded and installed the important updates, but made sure to leave out the others. Restarted.

Since I’d restored my system files, I needed to reinstall ZoneAlarm. During mid-installation, BLUE SCREEN of DEATH. I refused to consider potential ramifications this may have towards ZoneAlarm’s stability, once I got it working. At least, after the past several hours, I knew what to do. Restarted in safe-mode and, hey, *now* I could access “add/remove programs”! Uninstalled ZoneAlarm. Restarted in normal mode. Re-installed ZoneAlarm. Restarted. Hurrah! Back to Shields UP. Still stealthy.

Sync… still didn’t work. There was a connection, but failed sync all the way around. Hmmm, I cautiously deleted my “partnership profile” and set up a new one, with a couple restarts and scratchings of my head in between. Eventually, sync worked again.

I performed final tests. Windows update worked; sync worked; I started scanning for viruses with PC-cillin 2007 and went to sleep. This morning, to my relief I found that PC-cillin worked fine, and sync still worked. Hurrah! Break out the champagne! But oops, I need to get to work so forget the last part. Before I left, I started backing-up my hard drive.

Note to self: tonight, verify everything—ZoneAlarm, PC-cillin 2007, Windows Update, sync—is working, then create a system restore point.

Lies, misleading, or mistaken?

I just read this article on cbc.ca regarding the delay in the passport requirement for Canadians and Americans crossing the United States border by car or boat. United States Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is reported as saying that any substantial delay in the passport requirement would be "playing with fire". But what *really* annoyed me was this quote:

"Even Andrew Speaker, the Atlanta lawyer with a drug-resistant form of tuberculosis, knew to enter the United States via Canada to remain undetected, he [Chertoff] said."
Eh?! What the heck!? From articles I've read (BBC; CNN) Andrew Speaker was NOT undetected. Speaker was only able to enter the United States because the border guard let him pass *despite* a "danger to public health" warning and a "detain" order--not because he did or did not have a passport!

Is Chertoff trying to change history?! Is Chertoff outright lieing, intentionally misleading, worryingly misinformed, or genuinely ignorant of the facts surrounding an important security breach? As something like this falls under his purview as Homeland Security Secretary, is he simply incompetent? Unfortunately, the Bush government lost my benefit of the doubt a long time ago.

20 June 2007

Vista-certified, are you sure?

Vista-certified? What’s that? Silly me, I thought it meant that Vista-certified programs--like Trend Micro Internet Security 2007—will work on Windows Vista. Oops, my mistake.

The firewall works (apparently) but the scanning function, either scheduled or manual, does not. It’s not like my computer is an old workhorse over-stuffed with the accumulated detritus of years of use. This computer is less than three weeks old, and “Vista-certified” IS2007 has *never* worked properly.

Over the past week and a half Trend Micro customer support has suggested 5-6 different ways to fix this scanning issue. None of them have worked. Customer support was prompt—I received replies by e-mail within 24 h—until recently, where it’s now been approaching three days since my e-mail to them, which all can be summarized as, “I followed your instructions but scanning still not working. What do I try next?”.

At one point, at their request, I sent Trend Micro my system information. I was mildly surprised to be subsequently told that I had McAfee antivirus software and that it was interfering with IS2007. I say “mildly” because the day I purchased my computer I spent some time uninstalling pre-installed software, and I have a dim, murky recollection that McAfee antivirus might have been one of them. Anywhoo, following Trend Micro’s instructions, I performed a “forced” uninstallation of McAfee to remove anything left behind after using Vista’s “add/remove programs”. Scanning was still non-functional. I only mentioned this particular failure because days later I realized that I could no long sync with my HTC s620. To cut the story short, after much head scratching and “woe is me’s” I discovered that the “forced” uninstallation of what may or may not have been McAffee was the culprit. Luckily I had an appropriate system restore point—otherwise I would have been really annoyed. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyways, this temporary hiccup did nothing to encourage confidence in Trend Micro’s technical support.

I’m tempted to move on to other software even though I have more than 8 months left in my paid subscription. I’ve always liked the free version of Zone Lab’s firewall. This is a little odd, now that I think about it: I stopped using ZoneAlarm because its True Vector Service started crashing repeatedly on my previous computer. Perhaps I’ll uninstall IS2007, and just install Trend Micro PC-cillin 2007—would this be worthwhile? I’m not sure. As I mentioned, the IS2007 firewall appears to work, but maybe there’s a conflict/issue within the IS suite and my computer, an issue absent with just the Trend Micro antivirus software.

Hmmm, maybe I’ll try that, then. I already have PC-cillin 2007 for Vista, so no additional $$$ will be involved, and I’ll give ZoneAlarm another try.

13 June 2007

Google Desktop

One of the programs that came pre-installed with my new computer was Google Desktop. At first I wasn't quite sure what it exactly did, but I didn't uninstall it immediately because Geek Squad had said they would remove all the 'junk' software before I picked my computer up; I assumed Google Desktop might be something useful or something I'd want to keep, and delayed exploring it further

For the past week or two, however, I've noticed that Google Desktop regularly requests access to the internet. I finally looked it up and discovered that it's basically a way for Google to run a search of my hard-drive like I would search the internet. Ugh. Even before this, my feelings towards Google have begun to reach parity with my feelings towards Microsoft. The entire notion of Google (or any hacker taking advantage of Google Desktop) indexing my hard-disk worried me silly.

At least Google Desktop was easy to uninstall; although, after my frustration with trying to uninstall Norton Security software I'm never sure how successful any uninstallation actually is.

Anywhoo, I guess Geek Squad doesn't consider Google Desktop "junk" software, but I do. Well, maybe not junk, but certainly something I don't want on my computer--for security reasons alone, not even considering privacy issues.

04 June 2007

Windows Vista

As an update to my previous post regarding my first-hand introduction to Windows Vista, I am now able to use my Microsoft wireless optical mouse. It was just a matter of downloading the appropriate software. Unfortunately, Western Digital doesn’t have a Vista-compatible version of their back-up/restore software so I am stuck with using the Vista back-up program. Wangos.

I’m getting used to the folders, now, and some of the new features definitely make it easier to move back and forth between directories in the same window.

Random thoughts:

  1. A program called “mediacenter” or something like that regularly tries to access the internet. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be doing so I’ve been randomly approving or rejecting its access. Annoying.
  2. Speaking of annoying, you’d think that with a brand new operating system Microsoft could have provided an actual users manual for Vista. Maybe these days hard copies are too old-school. Wangos.
  3. My computer came with two speakers. I was pleasantly surprised and looking forward to using them since they have a lower profile/footprint than my current speakers. Unfortunately, I discovered that the speakers have a single audio jack and one USB (for power, I assume). I decided using a USB port—which is always in limited supply—for speakers is a waste.
  4. Every attempt I’ve made to install updated drivers via Microsoft Update for my all-in-one printer has failed. I can still print… but, wangos.
  5. It was only after downloading and installing Vista-compatible Nikon Viewer software—for transferring pics from my digital camera—that I discovered that it wasn’t necessary. Vista recognizes my camera and I can copy/paste pics just like I would an external hard-drive. Nice.
  6. I have Vista Premium which, as far as I can determine, doesn’t allow you to make a recovery disk. Eh?! Lack of foresight, or Microsoft trying to gouge customers for extra cash for what should be a basic feature?
  7. What the bleepin’ heck is Intel Viiv?! The salesman was confusing. Intel’s website was even more so. Is it a technology? Software or hardware? What does it do? It's involved with music and videos, but how? Is it something I should optimize, or is it just there, with no user input allowed?
  8. My computer came with AOL and Naptser install/sign-up links—uninstalled ASAP.
  9. My computer came with Microsoft Money 2006 installed. Nice! I’d been too cheap to upgrade from my older Money version. My only worry is that should the worst happen I don’t have an install disk for Money 2006.
  10. A 3-month trial version of Microsoft Office 2006 (student edition) came installed. I promptly uninstalled it. Trial versions of programs as critical as those in Office are not trials at all. After Office 2006 “updates” all my previous version files, what happens after the trial period? Will I be able to “de-update” all my files without losing formatting/information? I don’t think so. Another sneaky Microsoft technique to get more money.
  11. Not all salesmen are created equal. The first salesman I talked to told me my Office XP is compatible with Vista. A second salesman told me that Office only came in 2000 and 2003 versions, and only the 2003 version is Vista-compatible. Apparently my Office XP (2002) doesn’t exist. Luckily, the former was correct.
  12. This second salesman also couldn’t tell me whether the Nvidia graphics card that came with my computer is DirectX 9 compatible. Wangos.
  13. My Nvidia graphics card (GeForce 7650 GS) is not listed on the Nvidia website…. ::sigh::

02 June 2007

I'm connected!

Wow. It never quite sank in how much time I spend on the computer until mine when kaput. Anywhoo, my old Dell is still getting diagnosed, but I ended up buying a new CPU, today, from Gateway. My last back-up was only a week ago, so today I spent setting things up, installing programs, updating files et cetera.

My new computer has Vista, which is both good and bad. Good, because it looks good; bad because now I have to learn how everything works. Ugh.

Vista is also annoying because some of my programs don't work. My Western Digital Back-up/Restore program is not compatible with Vista, and my MICROSOFT optical mouse doesn't work, either?! Hopefully once I start looking I'll be able to find updated drivers or something.

Oh yeah, I'm *really* glad I had my smartphone. It took me a while to get it to sync with Vista, but luckily all my contacts, appointments and tasks transferred fine. Whew!

01 June 2007

Computerless

Disaster. Last night upon boot-up my computer informed me that it could "not detect primary hard-drive". Ugh. I dropped off my CPU at Geek Squad for a diagnostic ($60) which will take 6 days!?

I'd been debating about whether it was time to buy a new computer--I'd bought the current one over 4 years ago--and this may force my decision. Why spend money for repairs if I could use that towards a new computer? Should I bother waiting for the diagnostic results before buying a new computer? Can I survive a week without one? Should I bother with attempting data recovery (min. $100)? I last backed up my files about two weeks ago, so it wouldn't be a total loss.

How do I make sure my hard-drive is completely erased? I wouldn't want any identity thieves rooting through garbage and taking it.

Ugh double ugh and triple ugh.