Computer Problems

Last night Jedi Academy started acting funny. When playing a sound, the sound would start repeating, and the screen would freeze. Usually, after a few seconds, this would correct itself, but a couple of times, the graphics would get distorted (even after exiting the game), and only a reboot would fix them.

As time went by, this got worse and worse. Eventually I ran through several of our games, and all of them that used advanced 3D graphics had the same problem. Some would freeze and stutter often (Dungeon Seige), a few would show the graphics problem right away (Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast; Star Trek Voyager Elite Force), and a few would work for a while (Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy).

In addition to testing, I reinstalled the video drivers, sound drivers, and DirectX. The operating system is behaving just fine, and we're up-to-date on virus definitions and doing nightly scans. The problem seems to occur only with stuff that uses high-end 3D rendering, but isn’t confined merely to openGL, as far as I can tell. The DirectX diagnostics all ran perfectly.

Other than losing the ability to play our favorite games on that machine, this has triggered abnormally high levels of anxiety for me.

I suspect our video card has developed a problem, but am welcome to alternative suggestions.

Lessons in Rocketeering

[doug]This should also satisfy those of you who want pictures of our new house.(Well, not really, but there’s a picture of part of one room.)

Phil Luchon gave “The Boys” (which includes me) an Estes complete model rocket kit for Christmas. We got permission from Pastor Miller to use the church ball field for launching (try that in Brockton!), and got two flights up on Saturday. The first photo above shows David when it was his turn to launch. John missed out until the next day due to what I thought was bad batteries, but turned out to be a dud engine. So, I bought fresh batteries, and some extra rocket engines, and we planned to have another try at it on Sunday.

Sunday included the regular church service, a pot luck feast (dinner is too small a term for it), and an early afternoon service. We had a guest speaker, a pastor from Arkansas who is being interviewed to become principal for the Christian School. There was a lot of teasing about the weather and his accent—Pastor Miller has a great sense of humor, and both services were a lot of fun, while being spiritually fulfilling as well. Bryan Harrington may be interested to learn that his Temperature Conversion Chart got read from the pulpit.

After the afternoon service, we went back out to launch the rocket again. After discovering that the engine, not the ignitor or batteries were to blame, John got as near flawless a launch off as we’d seen so far. Then I decided to put in a size B engine….

The flight was spectacular. The B engine took off with enough power to send the rocket at least a couple of hundred feet into the air (we haven’t done the triganometry on any of our flights yet), leaving us cheering, “Wow!” and gazing awestruck at the power demonstrated by the rocket’s flight. (The blast was hot enough to mis-shape the steel splash plate where the engine fired.)

Unfortunately, the chute deployed at an altitude high enough to carry the rocket about 100 feet downwind, just enough to get tangled in the top of a tree at the edge of the church property. Despite John’s bravery (see the second image above), he couldn’t get a decent grip on the branch it was on, so the nose cone and parachute are still up in the tree, until we return with some rope or a saw. Thankfully, we shook the body of the rocket (which is not weather-resistant) loose, and that is safely at home.

That evening the church hosted a SuperBowl get-together, at which I dropped John off, while David, Isaac, and I built with Lego. (See the third photo above.) You can see that our new family room has more than enough space to spread the Lego boxes out while we build. The pinball machine and pellet stove are in the background, as are sundry other items that have yet to be unpacked. Nichelle is going to kill me when she sees which photo I’ve posted, but the fun is worth it.

While I was at it, I put up a newer photo of Naomi, for her many fans.

A Little Humor (II)—If Operating Systems were Airlines

DOS Air: All the passengers go out onto the runway, grab hold of the plane, push it until it gets in the air, hop on, and jump off when it hits the ground again. Then they grab the plane again, push it back into the air, hop on, etcetera.

Windows Airlines: The terminal is very neat and clean, the attendants are all very attractive and the pilots very capable. The fleet is immense. Your jet takes off without a hitch, pushing above the clouds, and at 20,000 feet it explodes without warning.

Mac Airways: Tickets are expensive. The cashiers, flight attendants, and pilots all look the same, feel the same and act the same. When asked questions about the flight they reply that you don't want to know, don't need to know, and would you please return to your seat and watch the movie.

Linux Express: Each passenger brings a piece of the airplane and a box of tools to the airport. They gather on the tarmac, arguing constantly about what kind of plane they want to build and how to put it together. Eventually, they build several different aircraft, but give them all the same name. Some passengers actually reach their destinations. All passengers believe they got there.

This is Really Amusing: Our Lights Have Gone Crazy

Today I am over at 297 Billerica Road, Kronos’ main building in Chelmsford (I normally work 2 buildings away at 2 Omni Way). We’re in a meeting with Rick Hightower, our Struts trainer who we’re keeping an extra day for consultation, and the lights have gone crazy. Imagine strobing Christmas lights on a building-wide scale. Very, very amusing. Apparenlty, this smart buiding is having a case of dimentia.

Jakarta Struts Training

Today through Wednesday (and possibly Thurdsday) Kronos is locking me (along with several others) up in training. This is my first official training since starting with Kronos, and I'm a little nervous, given I'm not very well trained in Java. We shall see.

Our Trip to Boston’s Museum of Science

On Friday, October 3, I Took Isaac and David, and Isaac's best friend Nda (En-dah) (John opted out) to the Museum of Science on Friday (I took a half day off, and picked Isaac up from school, and we went by subway). We had a great time. The digital camera I bought lets me get low-light and other kinds of photos I could never capture before.

It’s funny, because you never know what will really interest the kids. David now wants to go back (he asks approximately every day now). For some reason a 2300-year-old mummy in the life sciences section fascinated him. Later, he was a little mad that they put a sign up asking people not to sit in or stand in the tyrannosaur footprint.

One very cool new exhibit was sponsored by Microsoft – it's a mock-up of the “cockpit” of the Wright Flyer, linked to a huge projection screen and M$ Flight Simulator 2004. The Wright Flyer was very difficult to fly – not so bad climbing and leveling off (although it would stall very easily), but banking (by weight-shifting) was usually disastrous for us. Friday afternoons and evenings the museum is mostly empty, so we all had plenty of chances to try it.

Yikes! I need to post something.

[david]We have a policy of 1 hour of computer or video game time per day on weekdays for the kids (they get 2 hours on weekends), but they can earn extra time, which they sometimes do, by working on educational software or activities, such as typing for Isaac, writing for David, and Web design for John). One of David’s time-earning activities is to run the Virtual Fish Tank, an online version of the full-size exhibit (once part of the Computer Museum) at the Museum of Science in Boston. Last night he was watching me work (well, play Star Trek Voyager Elite Force II) on one machine, and asked me to call up the Virtual Fish Tank for him. He then said, “I can earn game time just by leaving this running—I don’t actually have to play it, right?” For a 4-year-old, he’s getting much too good at trying to “work the angles.”

Lies, Darned Lies, and Marketing

I’ve come across this new breed of popup ad a few times in the past couple of weeks:

Brought to you by the evil folks at ZendMedia and the vendors of ComputerShield ( ...

Yet again we have an attempt to prey on the gullible and less-than-well-informed computer users. What infuriates me most about this—even beyond the desire to trick the user into thinking his or her computer has a problem (much like the “Your Internet connection is not operating at full speed” garbage ads)—is that the ad site claims the user’s computer is infected, regardless of the fact that the user’s computer (like mine) might be patched or firewalled and completely invulnerable to the RPC worm.

I wonder how many people have been duped by this scheme? This makes me very angry indeed.

Folks need to learn to differentiate between a scam advertisement and a real security threat, and this sort of schrecklichkeit is abominable.

And a Final Rant Is Due: Look, if you’re going to have a computer connected to the Internet, or even just receiving e-mail of any kind, you must install some good antivirus software and keep your machine updated with the latest security patches (which means running the Windows Update service for most people). Do not use McAffee because it stinks—you’re much better off with Norton Antivirus. Do update your virus definitions at least every week, and run a full scan that often as well. If you can’t afford Norton AntiVirus, try one of several free alternatives, such as BitDefender, Avast, AntiVir, or AVG Anti-Virus.