Nostalgic Rumblings
The Ramblings of an Old Man

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April 2009
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Big US ISPs Roll Out Push Polling to Stop Cheap Internet

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 1:04 pm

From ZeroPaid: Big US ISPs Roll Out Push Polling to Stop Cheap Internet

The big ISPs are using intentionally-leading questions to force the result they want. From the article: “It seems that ISPs are working around the clock to maintain the status quo - and their monopolies.” That sounds about right. If you live in North Carolina, now would be a really good time to drop a note to your state legislators telling them you want faster Internet access cheaper, no matter who provides it. (The city of Wilson, NC has a blog discussing this issue and the bills involved.)

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Eddie Carroll on All in the Family

Filed under: Old-Time Radio, Television — Charlie Summers @ 3:46 pm

As I mentioned Saturday, there was a bit of serendipity - Eddie Carroll guested in a number of sitcoms over the years, and an episode of All in the Family he appeared in was on TV Land this morning. Herewith are a couple of screen-grabs from the program, first with Sherman Hemsley and Carroll O’Connor, and then in close-up.

Gotta love that powder-blue tux jacket…

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ISPs Push for Data Caps While Profits Soar, Costs Decline

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 12:04 pm

From ZeroPaid: ISPs Push for Data Caps While Profits Soar, Costs Decline

From the article: “Now data caps are fine if they were based in economic reality. The problem is they aren’t and ISPs are being extremely dishonest when they say they’re necessary to recoup costs.”

Read this article, and hopefully you’ll be angry enough to help stop this nonsense.

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Saturday at the Cincinnati Convention

Filed under: Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 11:19 pm

This post is going to be pretty brief; it’s after midnight, and we need to leave early in the morning to get on the road for home. In the next few days, I’ll get some more photos and maybe even some audio and video from this year’s convention, but for now, as I promised myself, some pics from around the convention today with some tongue-in-cheek comments.

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Harry Bartell

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 9:26 pm

Ok, I have an explanation to make. In fact, I’ve already made it about five times already, so one more isn’t going to matter. When Terry Salomonson presented me with the Parley Baer Award which was actually awarded but not presented a few years ago, I wasn’t exactly certain what to say other than “Thank you.” But I realized there were three people from the Golden Age of Radio I always wanted to meet but never did; Parley Baer, Larry Dobkin, and Harry Bartell. As many of you know, Harry was a friend of mine, yet we were never in the same room at the same time. We talked by email, and telephone, but never had the drink we promised each other we’d enjoy together.

I don’t know why I got vapor-locked, but it was absolutely impossible for me to speak his name. I tried a few times, and then finally gave up before I, as Steve Jansen (the dirty noir rat) suggested, “cried like a dame.” Fleeing seemed like a reasonable solution at the time, in fact the only solution available to me, but it left a bit of confusion in everyone’s mind.

You see, a lot of folks there assumed I was choked-up about my pal Hal Stone, and I have to admit that wasn’t the case. I did meet Hal, lots of times, and am thrilled to tell you the two of us enjoyed many drinks, and arguments, together. In fact, Hal bought my daughter her first Shirley Temple, and if you haven’t read that story, follow the link there and read it now along with the other stories I told after he passed…go ahead, I’ll wait until you come back to finish this.

Anyway, Harry and I never met face-to-face and one of my lifetime regrets is that we never did. Hal and I did, and while of course I wish we had spent more time with him, I have no other regrets when it comes to Hal. But if you’re interested, I can tell you exactly what Hal Stone would have said tonight if he were alive, twinkle in his eye and right before buying me a drink to celebrate my award.

“Ah, c’mon, Curley…I won that award before you did, and the Stone-Waterman Award, too. Beat that, kid.”

Tonight I’ll drink to all my friends…those no longer with us like Hal and Harry, and those who still enrich my life and hug my daughter like Bob and Eddie. Then I’ll get a few more photo published, and grab some sleep for the big drive home tomorrow.

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Friday at the Cincinnati Convention

Filed under: Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 12:25 am

Today was the first official day of the convention (but like we did, everyone seems to have arrived a little early!), and it was a busy one. Lots of time spent in the dealers’ room, topped-off by recreations this evening including The Bickersons, and Suspense.

I had planed on writing a lot more than just this, but after the performances we went over to Benihana (across the street from the hotel) and had an amazing dinner, made so much better by the excellent company. After that, I had some other work to do, my daughter finished researching her questions for tomorrow, and so it’s late and I’m tired. I’ll write more, probably after we get back home.

But for now, some photos from today. Same routine; click the thumbnail for a larger version of the photo.

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A Day at the Cincinnati Zoo, and then some…

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 10:54 pm

Today was an “off” day at Cincinnati, waiting for the convention to start tomorrow morning, so we decided to go to the zoo. Before we did, though, as evidenced in the photographs below, we found a few bipedal animals that were strangely familiar to us in the hotel atrium…

While today was a great day (we even got to see a Fishing Cat catch and eat lunch, something I hope to post a video of once we get back since I managed to get the thing recorded from start to relatively bloody end), we’re looking forward to tomorrow and the start of the convention. Already talked to many friends, had dinner with Fred and Ellen Berney, and can’t wait for tomorrow morning’s official kick-off. Er…ok, after breakfast in the Atrium…

For those new to the blog here, simply click on the thumbnail photo for a larger version in a pop-up window.

Update: As we were going to press, I heard a rabble outside my hotel room. Sure enough, it was a contingent of early arrivals, partying like it’s 1945 or so. (Yeah, that’s an OTR reference, why?)

Just to make certain everyone is properly embarrassed, I post the following photographs without comment.

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A Hawk’s Really Bad Day

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 10:51 pm

Earlier today, my daughter was playing with a neighbor’s dog, and I took along the HD video camera loaned to me by my friend Mike for the Cincy convention…I wanted to get a feel for how to shoot the event (24p, 30p, 60i, Cine Mode on or off, so many friggin’ choices…). While we were out, a hawk flew through our yard being chased by a flock of seriously miffed blackbirds.

I grabbed the camera, and shot the hawk as he tried to perch on top of a nearby utility pole. Those blackbirds were seriously ticked-off, and kept dive-bombing the guy until they drove him off.

I realize there are some nasty artifacts in the flash video below; they are my fault, since I haven’t completely mastered this whole High-Definition-to-flash conversion process, but all things considered, it’s still a funny piece of video. Unless you’re that hawk.

icon for podpress  Blackbirds vs. Hawk [0:48m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

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York Twp. official: Post names of public records seekers

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 10:11 am

From The York Daily Record: York Twp. official: Post names of public records seekers

From the article: “Commissioner Paul Knepper said the requests cost taxpayers money and they should know who’s spending it. He wants the names of people making the requests posted on the township’s Web site.”

I usually don’t post about local issues, but this is so boneheaded I am almost speechless…ok, so let’s all forget that it is not the requestors who are costing the Township additional money, it’s the officials, elected and hired, who are obscuring the requested information who originally forced passage of Pennsylvania’s new Right-to-Know law. If the Township, and all local governments were completely open and transparent in the first place, this law would not be necessary to force them to be so. No, instead, let’s punish people and organizations who are using the new law to open-up all of the secretive nonsense Township officials are trying to hide by publishing their names on the Web and holding them up to ridicule. What information do you need to protect from public view, Mr. Knepper?

Here’s a better idea; publish the names of those officials who originally obscured the requested information. Maybe if you blame the right person and hold them up to ridicule, they will stop trying to cover their rear-ends by hiding information the public has a right to know. Or maybe, just maybe, they’ll stop doing things that need to be hidden and remember they work for the citizens, not the government corporation.

Sometimes I am so embarrassed to live around here. First a mayor of the city is indited for murder, then another mayor of the city demands happy-meals from anyone out-of-town, now a Township supervisor tries to punish those who actually expect Township officials to be open and transparent in their dealings with the people they allegedly serve and who pay their saleries. Can’t wait to see what’s next…

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I’m about finished with AVG…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 9:40 pm

For years, I’ve used the free version of AVG AntiVirus on my personal computer. I have also recommended (i.e. sold for them) their paid version for about the same amount of time to business clients - not for commission (never received a dime from ‘em), but because I thought their product had value.

But I’m about finished with that now.

For years in their freeware app, they have defaulted their email scanner to send unnecessary and blatantly promotional “signatures” at the bottom of every email message, something anyone who operates a mailing list server can’t help but despise. And in their last version (8.0) they added a constant advertisement for their commercial products at the bottom of their main window, which is difficult to obscure and impossible to permently close. But I grit my teeth through it and moved on. Now, though, the d*mned thing is poping up a large, ugly window every day demanding that I “upgrade” to 8.5. I don’t want to upgrade to 8.5 right now, but there’s no way to stop this annoying thing that I’ve been able to discover short of removing AVG from the computer. And the free forum operated by volunteers (there is understandably no free support for the free version) was no help whatsoever.

Fortunately, there are many other free anti-virus applications out there which aren’t designed to be more and more a marketing tool for the paid versions, so my personal computer won’t be unprotected - indeed, I may spend some time installing the alternatives and putting them through their paces for a future blog article. It’s just a shame that a product I have recommended for so many years is made not only useless but actually annoying to the user simply because the marketing drones working for the company just don’t know when to quit. If 8.0 is this marketing-heavy, how bad is 8.5? I sure don’t want to find out, and suggest you don’t, either.

On the other hand, if you use and like the freeware version, post a comment and let me know why…I’m interested to know if other people simply accept the advertising barrage as “situation normal.”

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REVIEW: pqi i815 Plus Flashdrive

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 2:22 pm
The pqi i815 Plus, alongside the well-worn Adata PD17

Last year, I purchased an Adata PD17 2G flash drive to carry around essential data for my wife, who was ill. It allowed me to carry around all of the diagnostic tests, PDF copies of reports, everything that might be necessary. Now that she’s feeling better, I don’t need to carry it on my keychain all of the time, but still like to bring the data with us for her now-less-frequent medical appointments (you can see the wear on the clip, where the chrome flashing has almost completely worn off). It always makes me chuckle…every physician who found out I was carrying this drive treated it with amusement, as if it was something only a geek would do…yet every one eventually asked to borrow it to compare current test results with earlier ones. I honestly believe this is how medical records should be handled…not the frightening “Google Health,” where a monolithic company whose entire business model is designed around violating personal privacy maintains patients’ records. (Right now, I seem to be the only one worried about Google carrying medical records…but you can bet once they start monetizing your medical history and it’s too late, I will no longer be alone…)

Anyway, after a year 2G is no longer sufficient to carry all the information, so I needed something larger. I found a good price on a 4G pqi i815 drive; I own quite a few pqi memory cards (SD, microSD/TransFlash, etc.) and have nothing but good things to say about them, and since the i815 is about the same size as the Adata PD17 and also includes a retractable connector, I purchased the drive. Before transferring the medical data to it, though, I decided to put it through its paces and report here, frankly expecting to write a glowing review.

But I can’t.

I don’t mean I can’t write a glowing review, I mean I can’t write any review at all. The drive doesn’t work. Or, more accurately, the connector doesn’t work.

I’ve tried this drive in three desktop computers, two hubs (a Belkin and a no-name), and two laptops. Without physically pushing and manually holding the drive connector into the receiver pins, it refuses to make a stable connection. The closest I came was a dollar-store USB extension cord, and even that was unstable enough that it only worked reliably once I folded up some paper scraps and shoved them behind the drive connector to force the connectors into the pins.

FWIW, using brute force to maintain a connection, the drive works just fine; this isn’t an electrical issue, just a really bad design on the drive connector. It is completely useless for day-to-day use, since I’m pretty certain no one in their right mind is going to want to hold a USB drive against the USB connector pins…it wasn’t even practical for me to test file-copy speeds, since I only had one hand free while desperately applying pressure to keep the thumb drive mounted to the desktop. (NB: I was able to copy, one-handed, small test files to the drive. I just couldn’t bring myself to try to copy and time large files while holding the thing against the USB connector pins.)

What’s scary is that I haven’t found any USB connector that this drive will simply plug-and-play into. While I certainly don’t have every make of machine in the universe, I do have enough of a representative slice that I can’t believe the problem with this drive didn’t appear long before now. Didn’t the company test it before marketing? Didn’t anyone at the company try out this thing? With all the flash drives I use in a day’s time, it simply isn’t possible this is anything other than a design flaw, which should have appeared the moment the first drive came back from manufacturing.

Visually, the connectors in the pqi and Adata appear to be the same; the only real difference I can find is a slight recession of the connectors below the mount, while the Adata have the connectors flush on the top. I can tell you in the over-a-year I’ve been using the Adata drive, it has only caused problems on one computer, and that was fixed by switching to a rear USB port. Not bad, considering the number of offices we’ve visited over the year.

So the pqi i815 is, in effect, nothing but a key chain with no computer-applicable use whatsoever; it doesn’t really make sense to return it, since between the restocking fee and the return shipping, I’d be out close to the cost of the drive anyway. While I must reiterate I have many memory cards from this company with which I have had zero problems, I’d urge you to avoid this product like the plague. Clearly I need to spend the extra money and purchase a 4- or 8G Adata PD17, since for the application of medical records, dependability and interoperability are the most important features, and the pqi drive fails the latter miserably.

(I will be forwarding the URI of this review to the company, and will cheerfully publish any response they might make.)

Update April 18: I have as yet received no communications from PQI Corp., but I have received from UPS an RMA return label targeted to the company. I packed the drive up, and included a note basically repeating that the issue seems to be in the design, not the specific drive, and again offering anyone from the company space here on the blog for a response. More as I hear it…

Update May 5: First off, instead of adding to the comments, I am updating this post directly, because I need to add some flash video to the post. Besides, I need more space than just a comment.

Today I received a package from PQI, along with printed emails they tried to send to me that never made it here. The reason is…er…my fault entirely. Even the U.S. support is coming out of a mail server in Taiwan, which happened to be inside a /16 block my server has firewalled (any packets coming from that IP range get dropped onto the virtual floor). I have, I hope, drilled a hole in the firewall to allow their email in, and deeply apologize to them.

In any event, I received today printed emails. Since I did not receive permission to publish them I will summarize; support noted that their drives are designed around the USB specifications, and the device I returned to them was completely operational. However, they sent me a new (unopened) 4G drive, along with a USB extension cord to make connections easier.

And please understand I am very grateful to them for the time and energy they put into this issue…but the replacement drive doesn’t work in my machines any better than the original one did. And to demonstrate definitively that this is a design issue, it doesn’t work in the extension cord they sent to me, either!

I supply here a flash video; I didn’t even remove the “twisty-ties” from the cord, only pulled a bit out to make attachment to my Belkin USB hub a bit easier. You can watch as I plug in the flash drive, and nothing happens When I force the drive to make contact with the connectors in the cable, however, the drive mounts (you can hear the computer recognize it, and you can also see the green device light on the hub light up, at least once I get my fat fingers out of the way). When I let go, it disconnects. A bunch of times, just to drive home the point.

I checked the cable with some other flash drives, and it worked just fine, there is an issue only with this PQI drive. I can come to no other conclusion than there is a major design flaw in this drive, and I simply cannot believe I am the only person on the planet to find this problem with this drive. When the drive fails in the cable they supply, and the cable tests good, that is the only possible assumption one can make.

Looking at the connector for this drive compared to the Adata drive and a tiny little microSD (transflash) adapter I have (which I will show you in another post down-the-road) that both work flawlessly, the only difference I can see is the connectors on the pqi drive are slightly recessed, where the connectors on the other two are flush with the top of the plastic plug. The thickness of the plugs seems to be the same (this without using a micrometer to check), but the recess in the pqi may be enough to hold one of the pins away from the connector until the drive is leaned-into it. I’m not an engineer by any stretch…but I am a guy who knows how to beta-test, and generate reproducible results.

(Again, I will cheerfully publish any response PQI might have. This isn’t a slash-piece, it’s an honest evaluation of the drive.)

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AOL Is Blocking the Digest - Again.

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 5:56 pm

Apparently, AOL has decided once again that the Digest is spam, and is blocking delivery of the Digest to AOL addresses, and possibly Netscape addresses as well. This sort of thing happens frequently (one might suggest too frequently…), but it’s usually transient in nature. This is frequently caused by a spammer using the Digest address as a forged From: header field in a spam run, but usually I know this is happening because of all the backscatter spam AOL sends (that is, returning the mail to the From: address instead of rejecting during the SMTP transaction), and I haven’t seen any indication of this lately.

AOL users, don’t panic, the Digest will probably be back in a day or so. But until they lift the block, there is nothing I can do to get the issues delivered. If you don’t receive an issue in a few days, contact me via email or using that “Contact the Webmaster” link over on the sidebar.

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World’s Fastest Broadband at $20 Per Home

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 8:49 am

From the New York Times’ BITS Blog: World’s Fastest Broadband at $20 Per Home

From the article: “Pretty much the fastest consumer broadband in the world is the 160-megabit-per-second service offered by J:Com, the largest cable company in Japan. Here’s how much the company had to invest to upgrade its network to provide that speed: $20 per home passed.”

While in the United States we pay silly prices for much poorer service. Why? Because there’s no real competition, and because they know if we get true high-speed, we’ll stop paying for cable.

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Mob Keeps Google Street View Car From Taking Pictures

Filed under: News — Charlie Summers @ 5:01 pm

From TechnologyExpert: Ex: Mob Keeps Google Street View Car From Taking Pictures

From the article: “Be proactive: rather than protest the inclusion of your residence in Google’s Street View with a lawsuit afterwards, keep the Street View car from taking pictures in the first place. That’s what happened in the U.K., in Broughton, in Buckinghamshire, where a mob kept a Street View car from taking pictures.”

Way past time someone stood up to this unnecessary invasion of personal privacy…

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The FBI Says I’m a Millionaire

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 8:22 am

Ok, we all get those annoying 419 scam letters (you know, like, “you are eligible to receive the sum of $7,500,000.00 USD (Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) regarding to an over-due Inheritance / Award payment which was fully endorsed to be paid in your favor”), but the one I got this afternoon cracked me up. It has an “official” FBI letter of authentication:

<sarcasm>Wow…if it wouldn’t be for the “United States Goverment” and “Governmen of Nigeria” typos (consistency, scammers, consistency…), I’d be sure the letter is legitimate.</sarcasm>

Seriously…does anyone fall for this crap?

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Never Panic.

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 2:13 pm

Had a bit of excitement today…for reasons I haven’t tracked down yet, my computer decided to become unstable and die badly. While I was recovering from it, I launched Firefox to look some things up, and realized my bookmarks were gone. Completely gone. Possibly ten years’ worth of bookmarks, some imported from my old Macintosh SE/30, gone.

After a few moments of screaming “OHMYGODWHATAMIGOINGTODO?????” inside my head, I took a few deep, cleansing breaths and forced my heart rate to something under 160 beats per minute, and started to think. This is something I urge you to do in any emergency, since running around crashing into things isn’t going to do anyone any good at all. I needed to research the issue on the Net, but I sure as blazes couldn’t use Firefox, since it was clearly fubar’d, so I immediately shut it down and launched…gulp…Internet Explorer. Yes, I realized I was taking my computer into my hands (we all know how secure IE is), but since I wasn’t going to be going many places, I thought it would be ok. A trip to (a proxy for Google that prevents Google from tracking your every search - just because one has nothing to hide doesn’t mean one wants a third party to know everything), a few well-written searches (the first was, no kidding, “Firefox ate my bookmarks” which turned up a surprisingly large number of hits!), and I realized Firefox routinely backs-up bookmarks, one/day for a week. A quick trip to the default profile directory, a copy/paste of this morning’s bookmark file backup, and everything was returned, safe and sound.

There’s no big revelation here, just a reminder that panic rarely fixes anything. If it isn’t life-or-death, you can afford a few self-indulgent moments of screaming madly inside your head, but then the best thing you can do is force yourself to calm down and know there’s a solution to whatever problem you face if you only gather the presence of mind to find it.

Still, I won’t be needing any caffeine to keep me awake this afternoon…

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CBS Turning Off ‘Guiding Light’

Filed under: Old-Time Radio, Television, News — Charlie Summers @ 2:31 pm

From the New York Times’ ArtsBeat Blog: CBS Turning Off ‘Guiding Light’

From the article: “CBS announced Wednesday the cancellation of the longest-running scripted program in broadcasting history, the soap opera ‘Guiding Light.’ It has been on CBS radio and then television for 72 years and was the last program to have made the transition from radio to television. The last broadcast is scheduled for Sept. 18.”

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