12 December 2011

Canada Post Can Be Aggravating

Just as this post title says, sometimes Canada Post can be aggravating.

  • I'd ordered an item online from Amazon.ca and was following its progress via its Canada Post tracking number.   My order left the warehouse in Ontario and arrived at a Canada Post sorting facility, a mere 40-60 minute drive from my address, on the same day -- where it promptly stayed for two weeks.  Did it fall behind a counter or something?
  • After the Canada Post lock-out ended earlier this year, all I received was junk mail for the first week or so before receiving any legitimate mail.
  • Another example:  I knew Canada Post had attempted delivery of an order because I had its tracking number.  However, when I returned home there was no delivery notice in sight.  No biggie, since I was still able to pick up the package at a local post office using the tracking number.  The aggravating part?  A week after picking up the package, I finally received the failed delivery notice in my mail box. 
  • At my current residence I receive an inordinate amount of wrong mail -- correct address, incorrect recipients (I assume previous residents).  Each time I dutifully write "not at address" on the envelope and send it back to Canada Post.  Aggravation?  When weeks later I receive the exact same letter, AGAIN.  Do I really need to write "not at address" twice? Should I capitalize?  Highlighted in nice red ink?

15 November 2011


NHL 12 for PS3 has been out for a while, now, and while there have been a some neat improvements, I have to say that despite the improvements over all NHL12 has been more frustrating than NHL11, and not in a good way.

Why is it frustrating (other than the fact that it's too difficult/slow to earn xp as a goalie -- that hasn't really changed from previous iterations)?  In my case, at least, NHL12 for the PS3 has the nasty habit of locking up mid-game, for no rhyme or reason that I can determine.  It doesn't lock up all the time, but just often enough for me that I've put NHL12 on the shelf.

A shame, really, because without this issue NHL12 may have been the best iteration, yet.

A few random proposals for NHL13:

  • Fix the bug with the volume settings.  Every time I load a save file the menu volume settings are reset to default.  Annoying.
  • Get rid of the Verizon (gag) advertising at the start of every BAP game.  Annoying redux.  Even if I were living in the U.S. (where Verizon is located), which I'm not, this unwanted intrusion of an undesired telecom into my home would make me less likely to become their customer.  At the very least, get rid of the vocal.  Ugh.
  • Even if I decide to start a career in the WHL/CHL, I'd still like the option of choosing which team drafts my BAP player.

05 November 2011

A Quarter Hour in Traffic

Ever since I stopped commuting to work by automobile, essentially only driving on weekends, I've found that I can accept the sometimes frustrating vagaries of traffic much more calmly (though I must admit my re-introduction to the world of drivers who ignore pedestrians hasn't been without close-calls or risk-free).   Anywhoo, this morning was one of those days where I was actually relieved to return home and out of traffic.  I hadn't had one of these in a long while.

In no particular order:
  • I escaped, by less than a minute, being trapped in traffic behind emergency vehicles attending to the aftermath of a vehicular accident (I hope everyone involved is okay).
  • I was boxed in by traffic insisting on traveling 10 kph below the posted speed limit, on a sunny, cloudless, dry day.
  • A driver took a liking to my right blindspot and decided to take up residence there for a couple kilometers prior to, instead of pulling into the completely traffic-less space behind me, speeding up and cutting me off so she could make a left turn.  A turn signal wouldn't have noticeably lessened my annoyance, but it still would have been a nice gesture.
  • A car on a side street with its nose blocking oncoming traffic.  This one I gave a good blast with the horn.
All of the above events occurred within the span of 10 - 15 minutes.  So, as I said, arriving home was a relief.

18 October 2011

A Late Jump onto the Apple Bandwagon -- A Rough Ride

When my Zune 80GB's battery started dying, I recently decided it was time I abandon my personal boycott of Apple products.  I settled on an iPod Touch that was available through AirMiles.

Unfortunately, after being pleasantly surprised for the first week of Apple ownership, the ride turned bumpy as soon as I upgraded iTunes (on Windows 7, 32-bit) to version

The problems I immediately encountered after updating to iTunes 10.5:
  • iTunes started hanging whenever it tried backing up my iPod, whether as prepping for the sync process or when right-clicking on my iPod and clicking "backup" with no sync involved.  iTunes also hanged during the backup process associated with trying to update the iPod OS to 5.0.  I once let the backup process go for 18+ hours with no movement on the progress bar, before giving up. 
  • My CPU was constantly running at more that 50%, minimum, often jumping up to 100% when opening windows or programs, regardless of whether iTunes was open or my iPod was plugged in.   Apparently the villainous resource hog is "AppleMobileDeviceService.exe" which can be turned off but is required to sync.
  •  The iTunes store no longer opened properly.  Even after signing in with my Apple ID, all that would appear was a blank window with "iTunes Store" on it, even after the progress bar had finished.
To cut this short, I'll save everyone from reading a poignant, heart-rending description of all the failed trials and tribulations I went through in an attempt to get everything working properly, again.

Here's what ultimately ended up working for me.  A simple, straight-forward solution I found on the internet; a solution I sincerely and vehemently wish I had discovered earlier rather than later.  It would have saved me a lot of time and useless work.
  1. Open the DOS command console as an administrator.
  2. Enter "netsh winsock reset".
  3. Restart computer.
This is supposed to restore the Winsock catalog to its default state, to repair a corrupted Windows TCP/IP stack (not sure what that is, I'm just quoting).

Anywhoo, this completely solved all three issues I described above.

12 October 2011

Odd Goings On With My Printer

Computers can be fairly puzzling sometimes, with a big splash of annoying and often a fairly large dollop of frustrating thrown in.  A case in point, my Brother HL-5370DW printer has been working perfectly with my Windows 7 desktop, connected via an ethernet cable, since the day I purchased the laser printer a couple years ago.  This perfect track record, unfortunately, is now a thing of the past. 

For some reason I can not fathom documents suddenly stopped printing.  The printer was detected, the status light was green, but... nothing.  The only clue was that when I brought up the window that shows the printer document queue, the window title read, "Brother HL-5370DW - Offline". 

I wasted a better part of an hour trying to find a way to get it back "online" to no avail.  Anywhoo, to get it working, again, I ended up adding a "new" printer via the control panel, reinstalling the device driver, and then deleting the "offline" printer.  

Ultimately a simple and straight forward solution, except for the fact that the reason why the printer went offline to begin with is still a mystery.  Hence the large annoyance and frustration.

Just another day in the computer age.

10 August 2011


In this era of viruses, malware, adware, trojans, hacking, malicious rootkits, worms, e-mail scams, phishing attacks, and what have you, one of the recommendations always given for users to protect themselves is to never click on any suspicious links in e-mails you don't absolutely know is legitimate.

That's why it always irritates me to find links in 'legitimate' e-mails from large, well known commercial companies.   They don't foster good habits when they include links in their e-mails that to my eye, at least, would look suspicious if I didn't already "know" they were legitimate .

Here's just a few recent examples that arrived in my inbox:


This one from Futureshop isn't too bad, since "futureshop.com" is in there, but what's with all that gibberish at the end? Is that supposed to instill confidence?


This link from a Gamestop e-mail only has "Gamestop.com" near the end. Besides, what the heck is "lt02.brierleycrm.com" and all that gibberish between?

To my admittedly non-expert eye these links look all too easy to spoof or mimic for non-legitimate purposes.

And finally the true impetus for this post was receiving an e-mail from Sony Playstation offering free identity theft protection for users in Canada:
"If interested, please submit your email address by 03/10/2011 at 11:59:59 PM CST at: http://www.playstation.ca/identity-theft-protection/. Please note, you must enter the same email address used to register your Playstation Network or Qriocity account[...]"
This sounds like a classic phishing attack, working on consumer concern regarding Sony PSN being hacked earlier this year, and that Sony had stated previously that they would provide something like this globally (where feasible) and not just the United States.  Sort of like those scams that show up trying to take advantage of natural disasters or real events.

Even worse, when I hovered my mouse over the link in the above excerpt, this is the actual address the link would take you to:


Doesn't match too well, does it, and I'm expected to decide this is a legitimate link/e-mail?  When as of this writing I can't find any official announcement of this offer on Playstation Canada or PS blog?

Anywhoo, latest rant over.  I should say that as far as I know the above link examples are legitimate... just suspicious.

18 June 2011

Trouble with E-Bikes

Generally I tend to have a favorable view of e-bikes (electric bicycles), but as an increasing number hit the city streets I have picked up on a safety issue that hadn't occurred to me previously.  The issue that worries me is that most of the e-bikes I've seen appear, to my eye, remarkably similar to real scooters.  The only sure way to identify them is to look for pedals or lack of a license plate.  Unfortunately, I'm not always in a position to have a clear view.

Why is this a safety issue?  When I see a car, bicycle, motorcycle, scooter, or pedestrian on the road I automatically expect certain probabilities of behaviour they may take dependent on what category they're in -- and in response to likely behaviour I can take certain defensive or cautionary actions to minimize the chances of an accident.  The safety issue comes up because it's too easy to confuse e-bikes with scooters.

This wouldn't be so much a problem if e-bikes stuck to one set of 'rules of the road'.  Legally, e-bikes are required to behave like normal bicycles but, people being people, I've all too often witnessed e-bikes driving like scooters one moment, and then abruptly acting like bicycles the next, and vice versa, making their actions appear surprising and startling.

And from a mutual safety perspective, one thing to avoid on the road, whether you're a pedestrian, bicycle, motorcycle, scooter or car, is surprising or startling the drivers around you.

15 June 2011

VW Service and Tire Pressure

The Volkswagen recommended tire pressure for the 2004 VW Golf R32 is a little unusual in that it's different for the front (35 psi) and rear tires (44 psi).  These VW bona fide manufacturer recommendations are described in my owner's manual and on the driver door jam sticker.

What puzzles me is that in the past seven years of R32 ownership, whether it be VW service departments in Maryland or Virginia, whether in the United States or Canada, they without fail under inflate the R's rear tires.  I long ago gave up mentioning it because it never makes a difference.  VW service invariably deflate my R's rear tires before returning it to me, setting all four tires at 35 psi.

Maybe they know something I don't?  If so, it would be nice if someone from VW would inform me that the tire pressures in the owner's manual and door sticker are incorrect.

Personally, I think there must be a gap in their training somewhere; or perhaps more likely that some computer R32 maintenance file doesn't match the tire pressure information in either the owner's manual or on the door sticker.

03 June 2011

Close Call

I was almost run over on my way to work, this morning.  I'd reached the middle of a crosswalk when I noticed the driver of a car rolling forward had his head turned to his left towards traffic (and away from me).

I stopped, but he didn't.  From at least twenty feet out not once did he turn his head as he continued to roll forward, at a good clip, too.  When did he finally stop looking to his left?  After he came to a full stop well over the crosswalk.  Which, of course, was when the driver, with a look of surprise, finally saw me.

If I had been only half a step further the driver would have nailed me clean before he even noticed me.  I bet we both would have been pretty surprised, then.  Idiot.

23 April 2011

Mutual Respect: The Lost Skill of Being Punctual

When did punctuality become a rarity rather than the norm?   I've long grown accustomed to it, but I can't remember the last seminar, speech, or talk that started on time, whether it's late by five minutes, fifteen, or longer.

Being punctual is more than just a matter of courtesy, it's a matter of mutual respect:   the audience's respect for the speaker's time and, vice versa, the speaker's respect for the audience's time.

The most common rationalization I've observed is the 'wait a few more minutes for those who are running late to trickle in'.  Why is *their* time more important than the speaker's or than everyone's already in the audience?  Needless to say I'm not talking about specific individuals or VIPs whose absence necessitates waiting, whether by virtue of their position or connection to the occasion.

There are numerous and legitimate reasons to be late.  I've been late, but not once did I expect the speaker or everyone else to wait for me before starting and I suspect most people feel the same.  So why do it?

22 April 2011


A few weeks ago I received shipment notification and Purolator tracking number for an item I'd ordered online.  After 3-4 business days there was still no status information on the shipment.  The only information available using Purolator's online tracking tool was "there was a problem with your request, please phone...."

When I phoned Purolator I didn't learn very much more.  All they could tell me was that the item had not yet reached the border (it was shipping from the U.S. to Canada).   Purolator told me to wait a few more days.  Okay, fine.  It was only standard shipping, and I hadn't been expecting to receive a tracking number to begin with.   But here's the rub.  When I returned home the very same day I'd phoned Purolator, lo and behold, my shipment had arrived.

On a whim, a week after having received the shipment, I decided to check the tracking number with Purolator's online tracking tool, and the information still hadn't changed, "there was a problem with your request, please phone...."

Providing tracking numbers that can be checked by customers online is a great convenience.  There's no point to it, however, if the online tracking information is never updated.

14 April 2011

BCCode 116: Nvidia GeForce 7650GS video card

This is an update from my previous post, where I mentioned some problems I've been having with my desktop.  To briefly recap, I'd been getting video crashes with the error message "Nvidia kernel 266.58 stopped responding and has recovered," or words to that effect. Reinstalling the latest driver didn't turn out to be a permanent fix.

In fact, in the past 3-4 days it became progressively worse, where instead of a straight-forward crash I'd get incorrectly displayed displays (odd colours, horizontal lines, etc.), then crashes and then blue screens of death (BSOD).  The upside, however, was that I finally managed to catch the phrase "BCCODE 116" somewhere among all the funky graphics, crashes and BSODs.  I couldn't research this at home, of course, since my desktop was fairly unusable at this point.

Anywhoo, BCCode 116 turns out to occur when the video card malfunctions for whatever reason, one potential reason being the video card processor running at too high temperatures.  I found a free utility that reported current temperatures of hardware components, and lo and behold, at "idle" my GPU went from 78 to 95 degrees Celsius in a matter of minutes.  The temperature reached 102 degrees Celsius before I shut down my computer.  According to what I read, at idle it should be in the range of 50-70 degrees Celsius.

The cause of this elevated temperature?  The video card fan was no longer working, which I confirmed visually.  Cleaning up the dust (how does that much dust get in there, anyway?!) didn't help.  The video card is a Nvidia GeForce 7560 GS that came with my desktop.  It must be four, maybe five (or more?) years old, now.

I removed the video card, plugged my monitor via the basic D-SUB port, uninstalled the Nvidia driver, and now I can use my computer comfortably once again.  The only question I have now is whether I should buy a new video card.  I probably will, since I can already tell that videos run a little slower than they had previously -- not by much, almost negligible, but nevertheless noticeable.

17 March 2011

Nvidia Kernel 266.58

For a good long while I'd been having video problems with my PC desktop. The monitor would freeze, go black for a second, and pop back up with the error message, "Nvidia kernel 266.58 stopped responding and has recovered," or words to that effect.

There never seemed to be a specific reason for it -- I'd just be surfing the internet, reading the news, and I'd get the identical crash and error message several times in a 30 minute span, regardless of website, not watching videos or playing games. It even happened when I was simply working in Excel or Word.

When it first happened I tried "rolling back" to the previous driver version via Device Manager, but it didn't help. At the time I gave up and decided to live with it... until a couple days ago.

Here's how I fixed this issue, on a Windows 7 32-bit desktop with a Nvidia 7650GS graphics card:

  1. Downloaded latest driver for my graphics card (which still happened to be 266.58) from the Nvidia website.
  2. Used "add/remove programs" in the Control Panel to uninstall Nvidia driver.  Do not use the "roll back" feature in device manager.
  3. Restart computer.
  4. Used ccleaner (free software) to clean up the registry (this step might have been superfluous but I did it, anyway).
  5. Installed newly downloaded Nvidia driver from (1).
  6. Restarted computer.

To date (knock on wood) following the above steps has completely stopped my monitor from crashing.

UPDATE:  Ugh.  Looks like the above "fix" wasn't successful.  The same error message started reappearing a week or so ago.  It does seem to occur less frequently than before, but perhaps it's only a matter of time.

UPDATE 2:  I think I've finally found the root cause of my video troubles.  More information in this post.

02 February 2011

Darth Vader Meets Volkswagen

This has to be one of the funniest commercials I've ever seen.

15 January 2011

Snowy Days in The Land of Tim Hortons

The Land of Tim Hortons had 15 cm  of snow a couple days ago, and overnight there was another 5 cm and it's still snowing as I type.  I had mixed feelings about heading out this morning, but most of all I was looking forward to it because it had been a while since I'd driven my R32 in significant snow conditions.

Random observations and/or rants after returning from my snowy foray:

  • The same truck made me cringe twice, today, and I'm not talking about a pick-up truck.  It was more similar to a mid-sized fire truck size, and wider, to boot.  The first cringe occurred when he changed lanes to my direct right -- the sudden impact of his snow splatter hitting the R's side was very irritating.  The second cringe happened when he immediately turned on his left turn signal, indicating he wanted to make the same left turn I did.  The fact that he wanted to turn per se wasn't what made me cringe, it was the fact that the truck left it so late that he didn't leave me any safe options to get out of his way. Oh yeah, and the itty bitty  fact that I was in a dinky little hatchback facing up against a monster metal box on wheels was quite cringe-inducing, too.  Anywhoo, to cut this short, I made a safe, legal left turn, and the truck made an illegal one.  All's well that ends well.  I guess.
  • Thumbs down to the pedestrian who tried to cross a major intersection against the lights with approaching traffic.  A bad proposition at any time, but a snowy, slushy road isn't the best time to be in a hurry.  You might slip.  Which that pedestrian did.
  • The same Impreza fish-tailed twice making two different left turns.  The first left turn was from a parking lot.  Traffic was extremely light, so I don't know why he/she didn't wait for a larger gap so that he had time to take it slower, and safer.  The second left turn and fish-tail was at a traffic light.  This time there was no approaching traffic at all so I really don't know why the Impreza didn't take it more slowly, especially as this happened only a minute after the first.  Perhaps a really short term memory.  I hope the Impreza wasn't misled by how relatively quickly I made the turn -- I was trying to stay sufficiently ahead of (i.e. away from) him.  Anywhoo, I made doubly sure to stay well away from this particular Impreza.
  • I liked how on the highway slower traffic kept left, and drivers generally were traveling at slower speeds than normal.  Still, I'm not sure how helpful this would have been given how closely most drivers were still following one another.  If you need to stop suddenly the best brakes and winter tires in the world won't help much if you lose traction on the snow.