Nostalgic Rumblings
The Ramblings of an Old Man

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July 2008
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Why I hate computers…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 10:45 pm

I mentioned a bit ago that one of the machines here suffered a catastrophic disc failure…understand, no data was lost, but I never did get the time to install the new hardware that should bring all of the data back on-line, so I’ve been limping that machine along without most of the tools I’m used to having. (Like, for example, changing a web page right now requires me to write raw HTML instead of using some of the cute tools that make it a little easier, which made the Friends of Old-Time Radio Convention update take a little longer than it should have.) I’ve been looking forward to a weekend to take the time to disassemble the computer (and my desk, while I’m at it, for some serious dust-bunny eradication) and install the hardware.

So today, the current in the house died for a few seconds…I don’t think it was more than two or three, in fact, although I admit it seemed an eternity when I realized that two machines behind UPS devices went completely down, and my daughter’s in the living room also died a horrible death. Of the two in my office, one was the one that had the disc failure a bit ago…that one is the only one that I was able to bring completely back.

My daughter’s Macintosh can no longer access the network so I can pull some utilities to fix the secondary drive that holds many of her applications, and frankly I don’t have the time to deal with it right now, so with my apologies I shut hers down until there’s a free minute. The other machine in my office to die was the Windows box that I keep almost all of the audio and video work on - yep, it’s the machine with the podcasting files on it, too. And that one got completely hosed; it refuses to boot into Windows (not even Safe Mode), and this is after running chkdsk /r on the drive from the recovery console. Twice. (*sigh*)

So…looks like I’m going to spend the entire weekend restoring ancient Windows software via PC Angel (anyone who knows what I’m talking about is shuddering right now), then updating it with a long string of reboots, then reinstalling most of my software since it will, even after the updates, not have the proper DLLs in there to run a goodly percentage of it.

Good news is, the machine should start running like a champ again (any time one completely reinstalls Windows the pep returns to the computer). Bad news is…there goes the friggin’ weekend…and all because of a few seconds’ of power outage and an apparently bad UPS.

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“24″ blows up the ship

Filed under: Television — Charlie Summers @ 3:15 pm

Ok, kids, it’s about time to bid farewell to what used to be the best series on the air, 24. Last season (that is, 2006-2007, before the writer’s strike came along and got them more money for writing garbage like Cavemen) they brought on-board Manny Cotto, who hasn’t done anything worth watching since Odyssey 5, and as expected the show immediately hit the skids, went down the tubes, pick your favorite metaphor for worst…season…ever. So how are we going to fix this?

By hiring Star Trek: WhoCares’ Brannon “Hey, I only have one idea but I’ll keep using it over and over - let’s blow up the ship!” Braga and Manny’s brother Carlos Cotto, whose only justification seems to be nepotonic, as co-Exec Producers.

Seriously, we’re all doomed. Why is it every time I really like something they end up screwing me over? I still maintain the writers personally owe my mother a partial refund for the claptrap they foisted upon us, and that she purchased for me in DVD format (my mother knows me really well…every year there’s a 24 DVD set and something from the original-and-only-legitimate Star Trek under the tree for me).

And one more thing…can we please stop calling the upcoming two-hour movie a “prequel?” Unless it airs after the up-coming season (which it won’t), it’s no “prequel,” it’s instead a bridge between what was the worst season to date, and what is shaping up to be the worst season to air (at least based upon the recent new-hires). But it’s airing in the correct order chronologically. (prequel: A literary, dramatic, or cinematic work whose narrative takes place before that of a preexisting work or a sequel.) I don’t care if they filmed the whole bloody season first, if it’s airing in the correct order, it ain’t a “prequel.”

(*sigh*) I’m going back to 24: The Game. There’s a helluva lot more originality in the script for the game than there was in all of last season, anyway, and this year ain’t shaping up so good.

Oh, before I forget, yes, kids, I know I have been lax in the podcasting area. I’m working on that now, and should have some new shows posted within the week. Sorry ’bout that…

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OTR Digest Issue…

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 5:10 pm

I’d like to ask for some input on an issue that is becoming pretty major on the OTR Digest…hit-and-run commercial interests.

Let me back up a little; routinely, people are sent to the OTR Digest to ask a question. It used to be folks asking about some family member or another who appeared, or at least was said to have appeared, on one program or another, and, “does anyone have or know about this show?”…that kind of question certainly belongs on the OTR Digest, and I’m sure everyone on the list is interested in checking their collections to see if they can help out.

But recently, the questions are coming more and more from commercial interests — people writing a book, working on a documentary, or the like; basically people with no interest whatsoever in Old-Time Radio other than their current “desperate need” for whatever it is they are going to be making money on. One example was someone with a company making money producing a radio series with an idea stolen from a certain famous newsman; hit - subscribe and request specific material; then run - unsubscribe and while doing so tell me he really doesn’t care about OTR, he just needed that one piece. Very recently a woman writing a book about someone hammered the Digest address (and every other address she could find on the server) with the same form letter over and over, asking for specific shows so she could use them in research for her book about this person - no interest in radio, just interested in the person. Heck, just today I was told this is why we are here, to help people who are involved in commercial projects.


Maybe it’s me, but I’m becoming offended by this…it’s almost as if the subscribers to the OTR Digest are expected to be an unpaid research service for these commercial interests demanding information or programs, and it never occurs to these folks how self-centered that assumption is. Understand, I’m not talking about the folks who are involved in the hobby; we have boatloads of authors (Martin Grams, Jim Cox, Stephen Kallis, David Siegel, and Anthony Tollin, just off the top of my head, and probably dozens more) who routinely participate in the Digest discussions. And I’m not talking about “legitimate” questions from folks dealing with their relatives…heck, I’ve participated more than once in finding long-lost programming for someone. I’m talking about hit-and-runners who don’t give a whit about OTR, and are only interested in having someone else provide them with research material they need “right away” and then vanish into the night never to be seen again.

Like I said, maybe it’s just me. I’d appreciate subscriber thoughts on this - I realize it’s pretty much my issue to deal with (and those who go out of their way to annoy me, by sending form letters to every address they can harvest, for example, will still be summarily ignored), but I want to know what you think about the issue. Please…discuss.

(Oh, just so there’s no confusion, this discussion is open to subscribers to the Digest…hit-and-runners justifying your “desperate need” should not apply… And one day soon I hope to bring up the contentious issue of on-line auction posts, but one major issue at a time, eh?)

Edit: Please be sure to read this comment before responding, to make certain we’re talking about the same thing. (Actually, I urge you to read all the comments, since they are universally interesting and well-thought-out.)

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NY attorney general gets more ISPs to block alt.* newsgroups

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 2:08 pm

From Ars Technica: NY attorney general gets more ISPs to block alt.* newsgroups

Ars Technica checks out the new website, designed more as a promotion for Andrew Cuomo than anything to remove child pornography. Again, this is a good deal for the ISPs, since they can stop providing USENET services to their customers, but screws said customers since if they want USENET access to legal binaries, forcing them to sign up and pay a seperate provider like Ngroups to receive USENET.

Welcome to the unholy wedding of self-serving politicians and self-serving ISPs…

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Review: Do Not Disturb

Filed under: Television — Charlie Summers @ 8:09 am

Ah, out with the old, in with the new. The television season is dead, long live the next television season. And to prepare for it, I’m going to review new shows as the pilots become available.

Do Not Disturb; Fox, Wednesday 9:00 PM

Let’s watch Robert Wagner’s long and distinguished career self-destruct, shall we?

Ok, before I tell you how stupid and offensive I found this pilot, let me rush through the obligatory plot summary; there’s a high-class hotel owned by R.J. (the afore-mentioned Wagner) badly-run by his son Neil (Jerry O’Connell; Sliders, Crossing Jordan) who is so over-the-top he thinks he’s responsible for the hotel being listed as one of the Times’ 10-best places to stay, with the expected quirky employees who all make fools of themselves by insulting the overweight, gay, blond, black, and any other stereotype the writers could come up with - I’m certain they think they’re being edgy, but, well, not-so-much.

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OTR Digest Delay - Resolved

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 5:08 pm

A heads-up; the OTR Digest will be delayed. Thanks to a catastrophic disc failure, I’m hustling around today trying to rebuild from backups one of the drives I use to build the Digest (and since I’m doing it I’m also replacing a second drive that has not failed but is as old as the one that did).

Please do not panic; no mail has been or is being lost, the server is cheerfully storing everything that comes in, even the male-enhancement and “take your $41-million” letters. Any postings to the Digest will eventually show up, it just may take a day or so. The last Digest was released early this morning, and if I get really lucky the next issue will be released sometime after 8:00am tomorrow morning (resulting in a delay of only a few hours), but testing the new drive will probably take longer which will delay the Digest past my current optimistic target.

Oh, my personal email is processed by that drive, too, so if you’ve sent me private mail since last evening, I probably won’t get to it until tomorrow. Again, nothing is lost, and I will get to it, but I admit my personal email takes a back-seat to getting the Digest out, so it’ll be delayed a bit longer. And…um…writing me to ask about the progress won’t do anyone much good, since by the time I get to it you will have already received the Digest. If anything radical happens (unlikely, since this is all pretty routine disaster recovery) that causes a delay much past Wednesday morning, I’ll post about it here to let you know.

I had planned on spending the day getting some podcasts ready, but that ship sailed the moment I realized the hard drive became only a little more functional than a paperweight. I am working diligently on the problem…or, more accurately, I am impatiently glaring at the computers working on the problem. ;)

EDIT: As you should know by now, the issue is resolved. I didn’t get everything I wanted done yet (and have ordered additional hardware to help prevent this in the future), but Digest (and other mail processing) has resumed. Thanks for the understanding and the patience.

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Memor32, Redux

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 2:59 pm

A while back I talked about purchasing a Memor32 memory card for our PlayStation2 that allows us to run user-created .ELF files (an .elf is to the PlayStation2 as .exe is to Windows) on the PS2 to allow some seriously cool things like watching XVID or MPEG video files, playing game disc backups instead of the original games, copying the game saves to the computer so they can’t get lost or corrupted, etc. I really like the Memor32 card, even if it did cost $70. It does pretty much everything you’d wish Sony had allowed on the PS2, but didn’t so they could retain their control over the device.

But the “kids” out there, those young programmers who “hack” in the best sense of the words, have taken this all a step farther…now any memory card can do many of the things the Memor32 can!

It starts with a replacement for the Memento software, called ESR. This non-commercial application is actually more compatible with backups than the Memento software specifically designed to work with the Memor32 card. This can be placed in the Memor32 card and run using uLaunchELF as one of the DEV boots (there are four .ELF files on the memory card one can boot through the Memento interface by holding down a shoulder-button). That seems a little confusing, but I haven’t been able to get ESR to boot directly through the DEV system, so I use R1 to launch uLaunchELF, then use it to launch ESR placed in a folder named “AAA” so it’s at the top of the list (I’m lazy). The backups still need to be patched (they depend on an exploit where the PS2 believes the backup game disc to be a video DVD), but that’s easily enough to accomplish with the Memento software.

But there’s even more - someone else has written a boot launcher, FreeMCBoot, similar to Memento itself that runs on any Sony-compatable memory card! My old card is a 16M (Sony only officially “blessed” 8M cards, don’t ask me why), and it works perfectly; just like on the Memor32, I’ve installed FreeMCBoot, uLaunchElf, SMS, and ESR…and using FreeMCBoot, ESR can be installed as one of the BOOT elfs, so booting a backup disc is as easy as holding down R1 when the PS2 is turned on!

Now Katie can boot a copy of Sitting Ducks instead of the original, simply by holding down a button…and I’ve just discovered with one minor change I can make it automatically boot! (I’ll be testing this out as soon as I’ve finished posting this blog entry, youbet’cha!) And remember, this is with a normal PlayStation2 memory card you can pick up at your local Wal-Mart or Target, not an expensive USB-based card you need to order from a foreign country (although for truth-in-advertising, it should be noted that the only way to install the software onto a “normal” memory card requires the Memor32 or some other exploit - it’s a piece of cake using the Memor32, however, so that’s how I performed the install).

I’m not going to go into a detailed howto now, since I’m pretty sure the last few paragraphs have made most of my readers’ eyes glaze over. But if anyone is really interested in learning more, drop a note in the comments and I’ll expand a bit more on how to turn a normal memory card into a super-booter.

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Judge Orders YouTube to Give All User Histories to Viacom

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 11:25 am

From Wired: Judge Orders YouTube to Give All User Histories to Viacom

Talk about a clueless judge…if you’ve ever watched a YouTube video, your information will be in the hands of Viacom. And, quite probably, in the hands of the Federal Government, since so long as the data is a few months old, the Feds don’t need a warrant to get ahold of a copy.

Hope you never watched any infringing material…

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Verizon: How to cut services and pretend to be doing something good

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 4:56 pm

A while back, a bunch of ISPs (Verizon, RoadRunner, Sprint, others) made a big deal out of an agreement they came to with the Attorney General of New York to “limit access to child pornography.” Now understand, I assumed that child pornography was illegal, and the ISPs should report any sites to the appropriate authorities for prosecution, but apparently that isn’t self-serving enough for the ISPs. After a little research today, I discovered exactly what that really means - “we’re going to cut services, screw our customers, make more bottom-line profit, and not affect access to anything at all.

Let me explain; what Verizon and the other ISPs have done is dropped access on its news servers to the entire alt.* hierarchy, or in some cases eliminating USENET access completely. This way, they don’t have to pay for the bandwidth for folks downloading binaries, and can take away yet another service they can’t monetize (most people who don’t know how to set up broadband access simply load the software they so kindly provide, forcing the user to use their website as a portal without realizing they don’t have to put up with that nonsense).

But it gets better; Verizon specifically says, “This change will not affect our customers’ ability to use the Internet or other commercial newsgroup services. Verizon has been a strong proponent of free access for all users to the Internet, and we remain so today.” The English translation here is, “If there’s kiddy porn on USENET, you’re welcomed to pay someone else to download it, we won’t stop you - we just don’t want to provide a service we can’t make any additional money on.”

So for me, access to the newsgroups I keep half an eye on, the Old Radio groups like and the like, is completely blocked unless I pay for an extra account from someone like Ngroups, just because apparently 80 or so USENET groups had material objectionable enough to the NY Attorney General that he could allow the ISPs to get what they wanted while buffaloing everyone into believing he’s actually doing something. Lemme guess…he’s up for re-election this year?

Yes, of course, if this were really about child porn, the ISPs would help law enforcement track down the scum that upload/download from those 80-some groups, and leave their paws off the OTR newsgroups. But again, they couldn’t care less about pornography…they care about eliminating a service they can’t monetize.

And yet again, the customer loses out, and the corporations send out self-serving press releases. I really hate corporate America. And I need to spend yet another $10-30 every month just to have the service I’ve used since before the Internet was available to the masses, a service we believed back in those days was an indispensable and indivisible part of the Internet. (*sigh*)

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Jim Caviezel to Star in AMC’s Reinterpretation of The Prisoner

Filed under: Television — Charlie Summers @ 9:51 am

From Jim Caviezel and Ian Mckellen to Star in AMC’s Reinterpretation of Cult Classic, The Prisoner

Oh, my dear lord…as if badly remaking The Wild Wild West, Bionic Woman, and Lost in Space isn’t enough, now a bunch of hangers-on believe they can “reimagine” one of the most thought-provoking programs of the 1960’s. Look, kids, either get some new ideas, or get the hell out of the entertainment industry and start selling aluminum siding.

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