Nostalgic Rumblings
The Ramblings of an Old Man




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1/7/2015


The Things You Find: Galaxy’s Chronocron

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 7:55 pm

This is the first in a series of, “Ohmygosh, look what I found while cleaning up ancient boxes.” And it’s a real goodie, too…it’s a “Perpetual Calendar” provided by Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine. I apparently received this fine-crafted piece of plastic and metal when subscribing (or renewing, I cannot remember which) to the magazine which is still residing in other boxes in my basement. This magazine was mentioned prominently on the OTR program X Minus One and was the one I liked more than Analog, the successor to John Campbell’s Astounding.

“Perpetual,” it ain’t though…it only has years up to the year 2000, which I suppose back in the late 60’s/early 70’s seemed like one heck of a ways’ away — I guess the “future” is all relative. Still, you’d dial-up the year you wanted, stick it over or under the month you wanted to examine, and like magic the calendar would start with a Wednesday or something. Even so, it was kinda cool, and I had it sitting on my desk for a while so I could look up what day of the week a specific date was on.

Now, it’s just an artifact of youth. Can’t wait to see what else is in those ancient boxes…

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1/6/2015


Some Clarification on Why We Don’t Talk to Google Mail…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 1:33 pm

There have been some questions lately as to why we reject connections from some free email providers - Gmail is not the only system we reject, but it is probably the largest. I wrote about this specific issue before, and way back in 2004 I explained why the server isn’t accepting connections from there, but there have been some questions lately about rejecting these systems, and I wanted to clarify with a handful of weblinks from somewhat trusted websites. Note this is all pretty old information, nothing new here at all.

From The Guardian: Google: don’t expect privacy when sending to Gmail

From Forbes: It’s Not A Surprise That Gmail Users Have No Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy

From Business Insider: GOOGLE: If You Send To Gmail, You Have ‘No Legitimate Expectation Of Privacy’

OK, enough, you get the idea. And for whatever it’s worth, if you email me, the mail is not retained on the server, but rather on my personal computer inside my home…which requires the government to issue a search warrant signed by a judge to read, and keeps corporate America completely out of your email.

And in an unrelated side-note: I will try in this new year to write more here on the blog for both of my loyal readers. ;)

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11/12/2014


I bought the silliest thing…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 7:16 pm

Everyone who reads this blog knows I’m an aging geek…you know, the kind who has gadgets just for the sake of having gadgets. But I think I have outdone myself this time…I bought a virtual keyboard.

By “virtual,” I mean what I am typing on right now doesn’t exist, at least not physically. It is being projected onto the tabletop in front of me by a laser, so while I can see it, it isn’t really “there,” if you get my drift. There is a sensor that reads when my fingers touch the table (technically just a little above it), and register a “click” and keystroke. The soft keyboard in my tablet, SwiftKeys, gets out of the road while still providing me word choices…of course, that requires me to leave the virtual keyboard and touch the tablet screen, so it’s mostly faster for me to just keep typing on the table. The keyboard is surprisingly responsive for not really being there in the first place, and rarely misses a keystroke.

Fine, you ask, but what good is it? You already have a “soft” keyboard in your tablet, and a bluetooth rubber keyboard in your carry-bag. Why do you need this silly thing?

My answer? Don’t need it. Just wanted the thing for the coolness factor. And to watch the geeks half my age look on in awe and wonder. And before you ask, yes, I did type this blog entry with it, sitting at my dining room table in front of my tablet. Seriously cool…

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9/16/2014


I Live a Rather Strange Life…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 10:49 pm

I know that title up there is a bit of an odd pronouncement to make, but it’s true, and has been true for a very long time. While not ancient, and not ready to pack anything in just yet, I admit I am spending more time as I get older thinking about all the weird coincidences that define my life, and am equally awed and frightened by them.

This rather reflective post started out because I’m pretty much of an average joe, a normal schlub who bops his way through life working at a job, mowing the lawn, replacing a cracked window glass, adding a washer to a faucet, and all the other things that are a part of every average joe’s life. And yet last week I drove a few hours to spend some time in the presence of incredibly smart people in a palatial setting saying goodbye and hello…hours spent watching others do a job far more fascinating than mine, people actually paid to satisfy not only their own curiosities but ours as well, about all manner of things. And watching one incredible talent who, braced by that staff of amazing people, made magic happen right in front of me.

See what I mean? Most of the time I am the most average and forgettable person you’ll ever meet, yet there are occasions when I am suddenly, and undeservedly, next to greatness. And the more I contemplate these times, I realize they are almost always the result of odd coincidences.
(more…)

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9/2/2014


FBI, Apple probe Jennifer Lawrence nude photo scandal

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 1:18 pm

From CNN: FBI, Apple probe Jennifer Lawrence nude photo scandal

Ok, a word or three here about the real problem: cloud storage.

Folks like Steve Wozniak have been warning for years that “the cloud” isn’t to be trusted…while the idea that easy synchronization of data between devices is an awesome one, it implies we need to trust the service that is holding and syncing our data. This week, it was pretty clear we can’t; a simple programming error, coupled with weak passwords, allowed for celebrity data to be stolen. While admittedly the titillating photographs of celebs nude is what is making the news, photos of children, information on security systems, possibly even financial data and passwords to other, important websites may have been included in the script-kiddy hack, which makes this all pretty darned serious.
(more…)

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5/19/2014


Now that the 2014 Nostalgia Expo is over…

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 1:01 pm

…I have some thanks, some apologies, and some thoughts. This post is only a beginning, since I have yet to gather things together (or unpack anything, for that matter), but every journey starts with…oh, you know.

So first, a few non-exclusive thanks. Thanks to Melanie for the book…I owe you at the very least a Moon Pie! Thanks to Mike for letting Kate and me interview the special guests, and this after him seeing us do the same thing last year. Thanks to returning guest Ivan Cury for a compliment that means more to me than he can imagine, considering my respect for what he has done for a living. Thanks to both new guests (Beverly Washburn and Jon Provost) for allowing Kate and me the interviews, and accept apologies for anything we might have messed up. And thanks to all three of the convention guests for having done such an awesome job in the performances…I’m sure they didn’t have nearly as much fun doing the work as we did listening, but they all did one helluva job bringing those scripts to life. Thanks for so many Digest subscribers for telling me what the Digest means to them…just so you know, I feel exactly the same way. Thanks to everyone at the convention for treating Kate so well…trust me, she loves attending the Ohio convention.

Apologies go to anyone and everyone I dashed-off without acknowledging…seems I’m always running off somewhere, and inevitably someone is talking to me while I’m doing so. Apologies to Jon Provost for screwing up the video recordings of our interview…thanks to Mike backing up the backups, we at least have audio of the interview. Apologies to Blue Ash Chili for my not making it there this year, but thanks for the pickup order that still got me my cheese coney and Cincy-style for lunch. Apologies to the people sitting behind me at the performances…I tried to stay low and out of the way, but I’m a pretty big guy and probably got in your way more than once.

Thoughts? A bunch, but none I’ve gathered together yet. (As some of my friends will tell you, I have to go far and wide to gather my thoughts…) Later today I’ll get a few photos up, and see what else I can put together over the next week.

But right now, I have to mow the lawn… ;)

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4/20/2014


My Quest for a Pop Song from China…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 3:10 am

I’m honestly not sure how I can properly explain all this, and I honestly don’t know, dear reader, if you’re going to really care, since this quest seems to be a pretty personal thing, but I’m going to give it a shot and see where it takes us.

As some of you know, I’m “collecting” free cloud storage services. I have a Dropbox account, one from SpiderOak, Tresorit, and others. The one I use the most is Copy.com, since they provide 15G of data for free (Dropbox is only 2G), and if you follow that link back there and sign-up, you get an extra 5G for a total of 20 gigabytes. Add to that the customizable file-sharing system, and it’s my clear favorite - it’s the one I use to allow the Internet OTR Digest to include binary files. But even that won’t stop me from “collecting” others.

Someone pointed me to QQ, a company in China that is supposedly providing stupid-large storage accounts…10T, in fact. Yep, ten terabytes, or 10,240 gigabytes! As a collector, I couldn’t possibly turn this down, so I applied for an account. It wasn’t quite that simple, since there are a bunch of hoops to jump through, but I finally got an account on their system. (Is it really 10T? Dunno, since it would take me forever to upload that much with my aDSL. Haven’t put anything other than a few test files up there so far.)

(And for those of you who think I’d be crazy to post anything to a Chinese cloud-storage service, I have three letters for you: NSA. I mean, c’mon, truly personal data shouldn’t be uploaded to any cloud storage service, since after 180 days it is considered by American law to be “abandoned” and can be retrieved by a simple letter instead of a court order signed by a judge. I’m betting a Chinese cloud storage server is no less intrusive than anything in the United States.)

As most services, this service provides a few example files. QQ/Tencent provides a spreadsheet, a Word file, and an MP3 music file. It’s that last file that caused all the time and trouble…or rather my downloading and playing it, anyway. It’s a bouncy pop song called Be the Best with those words repeated throughout the song in English, while the rest is in Chinese. I really, really like the song, but I can’t sing to it, since I can’t speak or understand Chinese.

The quest was to discover information about the song, and hopefully find English lyrics for it. After a few hours, and with the help of Bing Translate, I have a general idea what’s going on. (Ok, look…the only translation software on the Net is from one of the “big boys” or another, so it was either the evil Google, the evil Microsoft, the evil AOL, or some other evil corporation bent on tracking, monitoring, and monetizing me. I picked Bing. So shoot me.) The album cover and more info after the jump.
(more…)

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3/16/2014


Had a great little birthday…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 11:53 pm

As those of you who have been reading this blog for years know, I tend to make a big deal of my birthday anniversary. Having been born on the Ides of March, I suppose some of the pomp and circumstance is inevitable, but I’ve always liked the idea of a holiday that was special to me and not shared by everyone else, so during my adult life I’ve made it special by it being the one day of the year I don’t sit in front of a computer.

Of course, this was much easier when I started it in the early 1980’s, since a computer was something you could easily point to…something that once connected to a television set would display characters, either those generated by the user, by a program, or coming down the telephone line through a 300-baud modem. It was simple…for one day, I didn’t sit in front of the large box with a keyboard, and could say I was not using a computer for the day.
(more…)

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3/14/2014


When did we all become sheep?

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 11:15 am

I have to admit it, I’m a cranky old man some days. And even I admit sometimes I get myself all riled-up about something for no good reason. But lately, merchants of all stripes are really beginning to tick me off, and all for the same reason - they keep dictating to me what I must do to give them money.

Put that way, it sounds really stupid, doesn’t it?
(more…)

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12/24/2013


We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 6:47 pm

…the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor, I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says “If you see it in The Sun it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety-fifth St.

VIRGINIA, Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, not even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

— Editorial page of the New York Sun, September 21, 1897

From our entire family to yours - Annie, Katie (who knows perfectly well there is a Santa Claus), and yours truly; no matter what you are celebrating at this truly amazing time of the year, Happy Holidays!

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10/27/2013


So then this happened…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 8:44 pm

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9/4/2013


Backing Up the Samsung Dart microSD Card With an ext2 Partition

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 12:00 pm

My microSD card blew up.

Ok, it didn’t actually explode, it just stopped working; I mean *boom* stopped working; I picked up my phone, there was a window tellimg me I unexpectedly removed the SD card and that I should ask nicely first the next time. Any memory card can just…die - I’ve had it happen not only to microSD cards, but flash drives as well. The card won’t mount in anything (computer or phone), so while I hung onto it just in case one day I find some method to restore data from it, I’m assuming at this point it’s toast. Of course, my backup of the FAT32 partition was older than I’d like, but I don’t think I’m missing anything vital.

Except the entire ext2 partition.

If you remember, back when I wrote the article on dealing with low memory conditions in the Dart I said, “And, of course, an ext2 makes backing up the card in Windows more problematic…I’ll deal with this issue in a few days when I again have a little spare time.” And of course, I never did.

So I had no good way to back up the second partition, even with being able to back up the standard FAT32 partition. It was necessary to jump through a lot of hoops, using Titanium Backup and Link2SD to help me rebuild the apps in the phone. I decided this was not going to happen to me again, nor hopefully to anyone who reads the articles here, so I’m going to tell you how to mount to the Windows desktop, and therefore be able to easily and quickly back-up the data therein, that second ext2 partition you made with MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition.

You want to download Paragon ExtFS for Windows - note you get the download link via email, so to avoid spam you might want to consider a one-off email address. Follow the link, download the file, and install. When you put the dual-partition microSD card into your computer, the FAT32 partition will show up; run Paragon ExtFS for Windows (you’ll need elevated privileges under Windows 7 & 8), find your card, and look for a yellow-bulleted unmounted partition. Select it, click the “Mount” button, select the drive letter, and *poof* - your ext2 partition is mounted (under the Hard Disk Drives, not under the Devices with Removable Storage, BTW) to Computer. Be a little careful moving stuff around in there, since this really belongs to Link2SD, but feel free to use 7zip or the like to make a backup of this partition at the same time you backup the FAT32 partition.

And, unlike me, do it often.

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8/30/2013


Killing the “Microsoft Office Click-to-Run 20xx (Protected)” Q: Drive

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 10:57 am

I hate Microsoft.

No really, I do. They do stupid things, and always have (remember the days when they allowed Microsoft Word to format your hard drive via macro?), and most of the power-user’s time is wasted on trying to get Windows to stop doing something stupid.

Today’s issue: The dreaded “Microsoft Office Click-to-Run 20xx (Protected)” Q: drive label.

Do a search, and every solution tells you to uninstall the Click-to-Run version of Microsoft office. Problem is, I did that a long time ago. MS tells you to run their “FixIt” routines…did that, and it couldn’t fix anything, since Office isn’t installed. They tell you how to manually remove Office, but again, that depends on the thing actually being there.

And yet, every time I get enough drives installed to hit drive letter Q, and the flash drive/memory card/hard drive has no name, the d*mned system reports it as, “Microsoft Office Click-to-Run 2010 (Protected)” - and yes, I usually have buttloads of USB drives connected, so this is a relatively common occurrence. Understand, it doesn’t affect what’s in the drive, only the label displayed in My Computer and elsewhere. But it’s d*mned annoying, and today I decided to get rid of it if I had to install linux!

Turns out, there’s a simple reason and solution: the Office uninstaller doesn’t (or at least in my case didn’t) remove one tiny registry keyset: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\DriveIcons\Q

Create a System Restore point, back up that keyset for safety, delete from \Q\ down (under \Q\ is “DefaultLabel,” which was the frelling problem), and *poof* - no more Click-to-Run labels on that drive. Didn’t even need a restart to cure the problem.

Why am I posting something like that here? Because eventually someone else will become as frustrated as I was about all of the other solutions on the Net not working to remove the cosmetic disc label, and hopefully will stumble upon this post, delete the reg entry, and get a good night’s sleep.

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8/29/2013


AOL is blocking the Digest again…

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio — Charlie Summers @ 7:34 pm

Yes, I know, this is an old story, but AOL has taken it upon itself to block the Internet OTR Digest yet again. There is nothing whatsoever I can do about this - apparently they statistically have received spam from some part of some netblock which includes the Digest server, and there is no one I can complain to about this.

If you’re on AOL, I would urge you to complain directly to them, letting them know you are not receiving copies of your opt-IN hobby mailing list. And, I must suggest again, consider another free email provider, as AOL routinely insists on turning the Digest into filtered spam. (*sigh*)

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8/19/2013


Rooting and Unlocking the Samsung Dart

Filed under: General, Electronics Disassemblies — Charlie Summers @ 12:24 pm

As I’ve discussed before when we fixed the “low-space” warning, the Samsung Dart Android phone is an entry-level device with an older version of the Android operating system which can, if properly managed, be a perfectly fine little phone for practically no money. And I also in that post mentioned that I’d someday get around to writing a step-by-step on how to root and SIM-unlock the phone. Well, today’s the day.

OfficeDepot had this little phone on clearance for under $40, so I couldn’t resist putting one together for the Mrs. who is currently using my old feature phone. And while I’m doing everything all over again, I figured I might was well detail the procedure so that anyone who bought one from OD this weekend could quickly root the phone, preparing it for the procedure described in my previous post, as well as SIM-unlock the phone so it can be used on AT&T’s network, or a network elsewhere in the world.

One thing before we begin; the whole “to root, or not to root” question seems to me to be silly. It is my humble opinion that it should be illegal to sell any device, be it phone, tablet, or computer, without the device rooted. Sounds ominous, but all “root” means is administrator; the “root” account is the account on a un*x-like device (linux, Android, whatever) that has administrator access to the device. It is exactly parallel to the Administrator account in Windows. Think about this for just one moment…if you were sold a Windows computer, but Microsoft refused to allow you administrator access which would mean you couldn’t install applications, control the hosts file, your networking, and pretty much anything else, wouldn’t you be furious? So how comes we all lay down and let Apple, Google, and yes, even now Microsoft do exactly the same thing? Without root, you do not own your device! You paid for it, but the company who manufactured it controls it completely, and you are forever at their mercy. You really want to trust any company that much?

So now that the whole “should I root” question is disposed of, let’s get started, right after the jump.
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7/27/2013


More Shorts not posted to Twitter…

Filed under: General, News — Charlie Summers @ 9:52 pm

More stuff I’m not posting to Twitter…

  • The weather a few weeks ago was amazing; perfect spring days, warm sun, cool air, just extraordinary. Now that summer is here, the temps immediately moved toward the 90-degree mark, with lows overnight in the mid-60’s. But that’s ok…glad to pay for the beauty of a few weeks’ ago with a little warmth. But then temps come back down into the 70’s and low 80’s, cool nights, and awesomeness all over again. Man, I am lovin’ this summer.

  • Ever notice how some people just don’t get it?

  • This constant need for validation is driving me crazy. Subscribers to blogs, BoobTube channels, everywhere you look on the Net people are begging for validation via “likes,” “follows,” or “subscriptions. I must be the anomaly…I’m comfortable in who and what I am. If you enjoy reading what I write here or elsewhere, great! If you don’t, I’m ok with that, too. I don’t need thousands of “followers” or “subscribers” to know I have value. And I sure as heck ain’t gonna ask you to click a “like” button…

    Guess that makes me an odd-ball in today’s 15-min-of-fame society…

  • So was passing through Intercourse, PA (yes, it’s a real town) and at the town limits saw the sign that read, “Formerly Known as Cross Keys.” In what universe is it a good idea to change your name from the latter to the former? One of my wise-beyond-her-years passengers suggested it happened at a time when the entire town council was composed of 15-year-old boys.

  • Doing a radio show with your daughter is a strange and wonderful thing to do. But it makes you do bizarre things, like grabbing a mic and recording a quick pickup line standing in the kitchen so you can finish the edit before bedtime. And don’t get me started on backtiming…

  • So can anyone explain to me why in today’s movies, super hero costumes are always comprised of huge hunks of rubber? Now even Superman’s shield is three-d molded rubber…makes no sense whatsoever to me.

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7/2/2013


BBC Radio Shows Now Filled with DRM

Filed under: General, Radio Today — Charlie Summers @ 11:48 pm

So the BBC is now going to add DRM (Digital Rights Management) to their radio files, allowing “downloads” of these damaged things which will sit for up to thirty days, and play for up to seven days. If I were a Brit, I’d raise holy hades with my parliamentary representative…I mean, for god’s sake, who’s paying for the d*mned things?

What’s really frustrating about this is the Radio Downloader can no longer pull BBC files. It was a great little device, allowing scheduling of programs in advance (when they were announced); set it and forget it. Once they aired and were available on the BBC website, they would end up on your drive ready to be enjoyed.

Something that simple and convenient cannot be allowed to continue, so it’s been closed down with the addition of this nonsensical DRM. (*shrug*) Of course, those of us who insist on recording BBC programs will continue to do so, and will be retaining them in non-DRM format for considerably longer than seven days. We’ll just have to do it the hard way. Some shows (Newshour, for example) are already available in podcast format, so nothing needs to be done there, but for the rest of it…well, I’m guessing there will be increased activity on the BBC-focused USENET newsgroups.

Wake up, kids; DRM simply does not work.

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6/21/2013


Random Shorts I would have posted on Twitter…

Filed under: General, News — Charlie Summers @ 7:54 pm

As I mentioned, I’m miffed at Twitter with its determination to control all things timeline, so I’m making a short compilation of things I might have posted there on the spur-of-the-moment:

  • News headling: Eyeball Licking Trend Giving Pinkeye to Japanese Kids. Er…did we really need to be told licking someone’s eyeball was a bad idea?

  • Everyone seems to be putting videos of themselves talking about nothing on YouTube, or worse, showing us video of them playing video games. What the heck is with that…and who is watching all these sorry videos? I mean, I understand the “covers” of music, even if bad, I understand why people would post them. But talking at a webcam in their bedrooms as if they are news commentators or variety show hosts? Giggling while playing video games? No one cares, so stop making these silly things.

  • Dear Johnny Depp: Are there any more of my youthful memories you can make a travesty of? Or have you run out of them now?

  • To those of you asking me for shortcuts in how to tell if a specific Old-Time Radio show is still under copyright or trademark protection - there ain’t one. Contact a lawyer who specializes in United States “intellectual property” (that a recent creation and not anything real, since something non-tangible cannot be “property”) law and pay them to do the research. Anything else, including listening to my opinion, is just plain wrong.

  • Received spam from “IMF OFFICE” - is it wrong of me to immediately think, “Impossible Missions Force?”

  • Speaking of spam, when the subject calls me, “dear,” pretty sure it’s going to get trashed unopened.

  • “John” (with an Indian accent) called me telling me my computers were affecting their servers. This is, of course, a well-known scam, where I am supposed to open up security holes in my computer so the b*stards can take it over and use it as part of a botnet, or charge me hundreds of dollars to fix a non-existant problem. I…um…declined, and finally got to use every four-letter-word in my arsenal against a human instead of the robocalls I generally get. Rather satisfying, actually.

    Guessing “John” won’t be calling me again any time soon.

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6/8/2013


Cincinnati Nostalgia Expo Wrap-Up

Filed under: General, Old-Time Radio, News — Charlie Summers @ 12:18 pm

It’s been a week since the first Cincinnati Nostalgia Expo, and I’m still not caught up from the weekend. Everyone I’ve heard from (with the exception of one unpleasant and spiteful little man) had a wonderful time with the panels, the performances, and the fun of getting together and chatting with friends frequently emailed yet seldom seen. The video and photos are below the jump below (hit that “More…” link if you’re on the front page).

During the expo, I posted pics in real-time to my Twitter stream, and I’ve copied those pics here - just click the thumbnail for a larger version. I’ve also stuck a short piece of video down there from the SummersTime Live program Friday afternoon which includes both Bob Hastings, Kate’s buddy from when she was small (and “nice,” as Bob put it!), and Ivan Cury, who I can’t help but think would have killed to have the technology I used to assemble this short video back when he was directing television. Non-linear video editing was just a dream back then.

The weekend was far too short for almost all of us, and if you haven’t visited the Cincinnati area you don’t know how awesome the food choices are…yes, there’s the required selection of chain restaurants (and is the one time of the year I am guaranteed a bag of White Castle burgers!), but there are also great barbeque joints, home-style cooking places, and even Blue Ash Chili, a shop featured on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives we saw in rerun while we were there that is, from personal experience mind you, excellent! (Look below for a photo of the place with two awesome spokespersons sitting on the wall!)
(more…)

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4/24/2013


Bitcoin…What, Where, How…

Filed under: General — Charlie Summers @ 1:26 pm

A somewhat one-sided discussion about Bitcoins…

What the heck is a Bitcoin?

It’s a non-existent currency, a virtual number that is created out of thin air by computers performing meaningless computations (kinda wish the developers had at least programmed-in something actually useful for the “mining” processes). People assign value to it, kinda like a credit default swap, so it has a value, sometimes a stupid-high one. Its purpose originally was to be used as a virtual currency not controlled by any government to buy and sell items and services. What it has become is a wildly-speculative commodity — think pork bellies on steroids.

Why should I care?

You probably shouldn’t, unless you’re attracted by the romance of a monetary system not controlled by governments, or want to gamble on something other than horses.

What happened that made Bitcoin hit the news?

Something that was worth $12 at the beginning of the year topped off over $260 before “crashing” to the $70-100 range. BusinessWeek had a pretty good article about some Bitcoin millionaires that has a pretty good overview of the Bitcoin. This was, FYI, written before the drop.

Is it really a crash?

Of course not. Bitcoins are worth about eight times what they were worth in January. That’s not a “crash” by anyone’s estimation. On the other hand, like the housing market in the United States, it did take a serious tumble from its high point, even if the high point was wildly inflated by bogus trading. But then, the housing market didn’t start off at pre-1950 rates before the bubble, either.

Ok, smart guy, what did you do?

I never bought Bitcoins. There were a bunch of places around the Net who gave away small micro-amounts of Bitcoins, and I’d spend a few minutes every day at the beginning of the year playing these sites for tiny amounts of coin. I also played around with “working” for Bitcoin…this is back when Bitcoins were worth about $12 each, so my “work” was probably worth about 3-cents an hour average (some people reading this might suggest that’s about what I’m worth every day…). But it was kinda interesting, and my goal was to get one Bitcoin. I have to admit, I got kinda bored with it all, and ended up with less than a half-Bitcoin.

When it went stupid the other day, I decided to sell what little I had. Because of the way Bitcoin works, I had to transfer my tiny amount from the local wallet to my Mt. Gox account before I could sell on the exchange. While I was waiting for the transfer to be confirmed (it takes hours on a day when there isn’t wild fluctuations in the value), the price bottomed-out. This is not a new thing to me…my investment skills usually can be summed-up by, “Buy High, Sell Low.” ;)

But I took a flyer and set a $150 sell price on what I had, and let it sit. Turned out there was a, “dead-cat bounce,” which brought the price over that amount, my partial-Bitcoin sold, and I ended up with ~$60 in my account. (Side note: this trade took place on the 10th of April. On the 13th, I received an email from Mt. Gox telling me the trade took place. Hum…guess they were a little busy…)

So, one could say I made a “massive” profit, considering the $60 basically dropped from the sky, appearing from thin air. Hardly high finance, but an interesting experience nevertheless. Once Bitcoins stabalize, I may spend my $60 buying another partial. Or maybe not.

Ok, ok, so how do I play?

First, get yourself a wallet. There are on-line systems that will provide one for you, or you can simply download and install the client software. See the Bitcoin.org website for more information, and I suggest you read it carefully if you are going to do more than own freebie partials. Once you have a wallet, create incoming addresses; you may have hundreds and hundreds of incoming addresses, so you can have a different incoming address for each incoming transaction. Just be careful about maintaining security on your wallet…people have been “ripped-off” by viruses solely designed to attack Bitcoin wallets. Again, if you’re going to play with the free microcoins, it’s not a huge deal, but should you decide to buy any of these things, you really want to take security seriously.

Now that you have a wallet to keep them in, and an address or twelve to receive them from, time to grab some “free” partial Bitcoins. Try these places - just don’t spend all day trying to strike it rich…pretty sure it ain’t gonna happen. On the other hand, it is kinda thrilling when your wallet announces you have “free” BitCoins, even if they are tiny fractions:

CoinTube TV - Watch videos, get free partial Bitcoins

BitVisitor - View websites for a specific time, earn free partial Bitcoins

Net Lookup - A Bitcoin “fountain” (meaning they give away a really tiny fraction of a Bitcoin for doing practically nothing)

EarnFreeBitCoins - Another place to view websites for coin fractions.

btc.pt - Supposed to have movies to watch for Bitcoin partials, but was out of videos when I entered. Still, you can grab some Satoshis (0.00000001 BTC) for solving CAPTCHAs.

And if you do hit it big and become flush with Bitcoins, feel free to donate a few, either with the link or the QR code over on the right.

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