Monthly Archives: November 2005

Giving Thanks for a Week

Well, it turns out our furnace problem was actually more than just a dirty filter. The flame sensor was going out so about half the time the furnace would just turn itself off. We got it fixed first thing Friday morning, but not before a mostly sleepless Thursday night.

The good news is, we get the entire week off for Thanksgiving this year. Now that is something to really be thankful for.

Change Your Filter

This is a public service announcement from Tony and Paige:

Now’s a great time to change (or clean) the filter on your furnace. The weather’s getting a little colder outside and you’ll be wanting to keep warm.

If you don’t keep the filter clean, your furnace will probably get too hot and shut itself down. How do I know all of these things?

We woke up cold this morning.

Bloggers Make a Difference

I talked a lot yesterday about Sony’s new copy protected CDs that basically install a virus on your Windows computer. This has been a pretty hot topic on a lot of weblogs for over a week.

According to News.com, Sony announced today that they are halting production of CDs using this technology.

I guess if enough people complain loud enough it can still make a difference…

Sony Virus

There’s a new virus infecting Windows computers these days. It hides itself deep within your computer and is almost impossible to remove without completely reloading Windows. Even worse, it also opens up your computer to further maliscious attacks.

So what’s different this time? This virus is installed on purpose when you try to play certain CDs that you have legally purchased from Sony on your Windows computer. Molly Wood at Cnet.com has a lot more coverage on this story.

What can you do? First off, don’t buy any CDs with this technology. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a list of infected CDs. I can’t imagine that anyone reading this site would be interested in listening to any of those CDs (with the possible exception of Trey Anastasio),

If you’ve already purchased one of these CDs and played it on your Windwos computer, you can contact Sony for uninstall instructions. Also, the Anti-Spyware program PestPatrol can detect this threat. They will hopefully have a removal tool available soon.

A class action lawsuit has been filed in California and another will be filed in New York according to Brian Krebs at the Wastington Post. I’m sure everyone who purchased one of these CDs will get a few cents out of the settlement.

All I can say is thank Jobs I have a Mac now. Malicious programs like this have no effect on my computer. After working on Windows computers all day, it’s so nice to go home to a computer that just works.

Wanna Trade?

One Red Paperclip is the blog of a guy named Kyle MacDonald. His plan is to trade his red paperclip for a house. Or an island. Or a house on an island.

Yes, he’s serious. And he’s made pretty good progress. So far he’s traded the paperclip for a pen, then pen for a cabinet knob, the knob for a coleman stove, and the stove for a (red) generator.

He’s been at this since July 12. Contact him if you have something better than a generator that you’d like to trade. He’ll even travel to you to make the trade.

But you’d better hurry, he’s going to be on TV tonight. And after that he’s traveling to New York City.

Why can’t I ever think of crazy things like this to make myself rich and famous?

First Halloween

Matthew dressed up as Yoda for his first Halloween:

Matthew

Nana made really good caramel apples. I shared a few bites of mine with Matthew:

Matthew

While we were out trick-or-treating we ran into a smiling red lobster named Jackson:

Matthew

We also visited Aunt Peggye:

Matthew

By the end of the night Matthew’s pumpkin was full of candy:

Matthew

It’s a shame Matthew couldn’t eat all of that candy. Luckily Mommy and Daddy are always here to help out…

Bookstores

We spent part of last Sunday browsing at the Barnes & Noble in Arlington. I’ve always liked hanging out in bookstores. There was a nice little Starbucks cafe. A few people were sitting around reading or surfing the web. Sadly, they all had either Dell or HP laptops, no PowerBooks.

I skipped the coffee and headed straight for the computer books. They had a great selection of programming books. And as I said the other day, I’m really getting back into programming lately so I wanted to pick up a good book.

Here are a few that I was really interested in: Pragmatic Version Control with Subversion, Joel on Software, Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X (2nd Edition), and Foundations of Ajax.

These books ranged in price from $19.99 to $44.99. I always have a hard time deciding what to buy so I asked Paige to give me a number between 20 and 45. She said 32 so I went with Pragmatic Version Control with Subversion for $32.27 after tax. So far this has been a great choice.

So what’s the point of all of this, besided being a look inside my crazy thought processes? Well, now I’m going to tell you why brick-and-mortar bookstores are going out of business. You see, I wasn’t there for the coffee or the free WiFi. I wasn’t there to mingle with the other patrons or to hang out and waste an afternoon. I was there for one thing – a book.

Unfortunately, nothing about the Barnes & Noble experience assisted me in choosing a programming book. I can assure you that none of the employees had read any of those books. Assuming anyone was even working the floor that day. The only people I saw were standing behind the cash registers. There were a few other customers wandering around, but most of them were checking out the “for Dummies” books.

Now we come to the most important part of any shopping experience, the price. It wasn’t until we got home Sunday evening that I realized just how much of a premium I had paid for the Barnes & Noble experience. I paid $29.95 plus tax for the book. Amazon.com sells the same book for $19.77 with no tax. So I overpaid by $12.50. That’s over 30%. With that kind of markup, I could buy books from Amazon and open up my own bookstore.

I realize this is turning into quite a rant, and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. I’ll still stop in at every bookstore I can and check out the selection, but if they hope to stay in business something is going to have to change.

Some people will say they like to thumb through a book before they buy, you can look inside most books at Amazon. And to me that’s actually one of the downsides of buying a book at the bookstore, other people have already handled it. Lots of times the covers are scuffed and some of the pages are folded just from being picked up and put back down.

I understand that Amazon buys in bulk and smaller bookstores can’t compete on price, but Barnes & Noble is not exactly a mom and pop kind of place. They should be able to at least come close – 10% off the retail price on every book would be a good start. Or how about a free drink from Starbucks with every purchase. They’re already selling $0.50 cups of coffee for $5.00 so I don’t think they’ll miss giving away a few.

After price, they need to work on service. I had to stand in line while the cashier tried to sell the discount club to the guy in front of me just so I could then step up and have him give me the same speech. Amazon doesn’t charge anything for their discounts. If I wanted cheaper books I would just buy online. The cashier’s goal in life should be to handle my transaction as quickly and courteously as possible and then move on to the next customer.

Also, why don’t they even try to compete with technology? Give away the discount cards for free like the grocery stores, and keep a database of everything I buy. Then they could easily recommend books based on my past purchases like Amazon does. Also, put a few terminals with barcode readers around the store. Then I could just scan the barcode on the book in my hand and get the rating and reviews for it. At least put a free bookmark in every bag.

The point is – if I’m going to pay more, I expect to get more. That seems reasonable to me. I think next time I’ll just hang out in the cafe, drink a Frappucino, and order my book online using their free WiFi…

Ashes

I’ve decided to fill the trunk of my car with ashes.

That way when the leathery-faced old smoker in the car in front of me flicks ashes out their window onto my car I can simply pass them and pull the trunk release.

Now, does anyone know where I can pick up 11.5 cubic feet of ashes?