My birthday has arrived a little early.

I’ve had my eye on a new gaming monitor for awhile now. If you had snuck a peek at my Amazon wish list in the last 6 months or so you might have even seen it. I listed it as a pipe dream because it was very expensive. It was the Acer XG270HU Gaming monitor and it was going for $429.99. It’s 27 inches of beauty with a 144Hz refresh rate, a 1 millisecond GTG response time, WQHD resolution (2560×1440), with AMD’s Adaptive-Sync technology. Not cheap, but oh so nice.

It's so sexy! Click to embiggen!

It’s so sexy! Click to embiggen!

On Friday I got an ad from Newegg in my email that had another 27″ monitor on sale. It was only 1080P and 60Hz, but it had AdaptiveSync and a 2ms GTG for $175, which is considerably more affordable. I figured it was worth a shot to ask the wife if I might be able to get it.

She looked at me and said, “But that’s not the one you really want.” No, I admitted, but it’s got most of what I want and the size is the same and it’s cheaper. “Why don’t you just get the one you want?” My heart skipped a beat.

Still, I felt a little guilty at spending that kind of money so I tried to come up with a couple of reasons why I probably shouldn’t. The Radeon R9 390 video card I bought awhile back is more than capable of driving the monitor, but I’m still rocking an AMD FX-4170 quad core processor at 4.2Ghz so I was worried that maybe my CPU wouldn’t keep up with it. She asked me how much a better CPU would cost. The AMD FX-8350, which is the maximum my motherboard would take, is $150 so she told me to add that in. Eventually, I did. First I double checked the price of the monitor on Newegg’s website and it turns out they had it for $379.99 — a good $50 cheaper — so that’s where I bought it and the FX-8350.

On Saturday I got to thinking about it and realized the new CPU was going to put out a lot of heat and my system already is a blast furnace when it’s going full-tilt. Perhaps a new case was in order. Then I remembered that I literally had to wedge the R9 390 into my current case because the cooling system for it abuts right up against the drive cage of the CM Storm Scout case I’ve been using the past few years. So I did some digging and decided on a Corsair Carbide Series Air 540 High Airflow case as a future purchase. I showed Anne on Sunday and she told me to go ahead and order it as well.

It's much more impressive than it looks.

It’s much more impressive than it looks.

So today it all arrived while I was at work and it was terribly difficult to not rush home to check it out. I’ve hooked the monitor up already and it’s stunning. I was telling someone at work about it and when I sent them the Newegg link I noticed that the price had shot back up to $469.99, $40 more than at Amazon at the moment. It was a stroke of luck that I got it at the price I did. I’ve booted up four of the games I’m playing the most right now (Call of Duty: Black Ops III, World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, and Overwatch) and they all look fabulous on this monitor. Even with my lower-end CPU I’m still managing 65 to 74 FPS in CoD so I expect that’ll only get better once I get the 8350 in this weekend.

The case has a dual chamber design with all the big heat generating components — motherboard, video cards, SATA hard drives — on one side and the power supply, SSDs, and optical disks on the other along with all the cables. Passthroughs spaced around the motherboard tray allow you to keep most of the cabling behind the motherboard allowing for unimpeded air flow. Two 140MM fans in the front and a third in back should push enough air to keep things cool, but there’s room for another five fans if needed. Plus there are mounts for radiators for water cooled setups on the front and top of the case.

A shot of the back with the secondary chamber revealed.

A shot of the back with the secondary chamber revealed.

It’s a bit on the big side and a little unwieldy, but I’ve not lugged my PC to a LAN party in a long time and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. This should help to ensure my system doesn’t fry itself once the new CPU is in place. Plus there’s more than enough room to accommodate my video card.

So, yeah, a bit of an upgrade to my system for my birthday. My wife’s only concern was that I’d be upset at not having anything to open on my actual birthday. Somehow I think I’m going to be OK with that.

 

An explanation on why setting your iPhone to 1/1/1970 will brick it.

There’s been a rather nasty meme going around on Facebook recently that suggests there’s an easter egg in iOS that will give your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch a retro looking original Macintosh theme if you set it’s clock back to January 1st, 1970:

NOTE: DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS!

NOTE: DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS!

What really happens if you do the above is you’ll end up with an essentially bricked iPhone that isn’t able to get past the boot screen. The reason why has to do with how dates and times are stored in most operating systems these days and a bug someplace in iOS. YouTuber Tom Scott has put together a handy little explanation on what is probably happening and why:

So, as a PSA to those folks out there who have one of these devices, don’t try to set the clock back to January 1st, 1970 unless you want a very expensive paperweight. Presumably Apple will get around to patching this bug at some point, but even when they do there’s not a good reason to do it anyway as there is no easter egg associated with that date.

I’ve never actually said this to a user before…

techsupport

… but I have thought it from time to time.

More people are using ad-blockers. Here’s one reason why.

An article over on Mashable talks about the increasing number of people using ad-blocking apps in their web browsers and how various sites are fighting back against the trend:

Websites know you’re using ad-blockers, and they’re coming for you.

Thanks to software that can detect whether a site visitor is using a blocker, websites can now direct messages at these readers, jam ads through to them anyway or even withhold stories. Uneasy publishers are increasingly turning to startups that give them the ability to detect and pierce through ad blockers, such as Sourcepoint and Pagefair.

Now, as a general rule, I don’t run an ad-blocker because I understand that it costs money to run a website in part because I maintain several myself; not the least of which is this blog. In fact the account I maintain to host blogs for my mother, sister, and a couple of friends costs me about $120 a year and its annual renewal is due this week and that’s not counting the monthly cost for the virtual server for SEB. You may also note that I have a couple of ads on SEB including a promo for Amazon on the sidebar and some Google Adsense ads at the bottom of each page. I also make use of Amazon affiliate links when talking about a product. None of that generates enough revenue to pay for the sites (I’m lucky if I get any money from them in a given year), but it makes for a couple bucks here and there.

So I can understand and I’m fine with a page having ads on it, but I’d be lying if I said that I never run an ad-blocker. I keep one installed because advertisers aren’t satisfied with having a rectangular banner at the top of the page or a square ad in the sidebar. Increasingly there’s been this trend of slapping a huge, full-screen ad right in the middle of whatever the fuck I’m trying to read 5 to 10 seconds after I started reading. I’m talking bullshit like this:

YOU WILL WATCH THIS AD FOR TEA REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU WILL EVER BUY OUR PRODUCT!

YOU WILL WATCH THIS AD FOR TEA REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU WILL EVER BUY OUR PRODUCT!

I don’t drink tea. You could come up with a tea that causes multiple orgasms and piles of gold to spontaneously appear at my feet and I still wouldn’t drink it because tea is disgusting, but you’re going to insist I watch your fucking tea ad.

HEY! STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND WATCH THIS PROMO FOR A COMPANY YOU WILL NEVER DIRECTLY DEAL WITH YOURSELF!

HEY! STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND WATCH THIS PROMO FOR A COMPANY YOU WILL NEVER DIRECTLY DEAL WITH YOURSELF!

I’ve never understood why Boeing feels the need to advertise to the general public. Do they sell anything to the vast majority of people? They seem to have a rather niche market. What the fuck happened to the idea of targeted ads?

WE'RE KFC! CHECK OUT THIS HILARIOUS AD WITH OUR NEW FAKE COLONEL SANDERS IN IT! WHY IT'S SO FUNNY IT'S LIKE WATCHING A MOVIE!

WE’RE KFC! CHECK OUT THIS HILARIOUS AD WITH OUR NEW FAKE COLONEL SANDERS IN IT! WHY IT’S SO FUNNY IT’S LIKE WATCHING A MOVIE!

I like KFC. I shouldn’t because I’m fat and it’s not healthy, but I like it just the same. You don’t need to hard-sell me, or probably very many other fat people, on KFC. All this does is make me not like KFC as much because they’re getting in the fucking way of the article I’m trying to read.

The first link is bullshit just from the headline alone and I couldn't give less of a shit about some billionaire's girlfriend.

The first link is bullshit just from the headline alone and I couldn’t give less of a shit about some billionaire’s girlfriend, but this is still better than a full screen ad.

It’s bad enough that a lot of the small, square ads these days feature auto-playing videos with the sound at full volume. That’s annoying enough without it taking up the ENTIRE FUCKING SCREEN. When I come across these ads the first thing I look for is the close button and I hit it before it has a chance to get more than 5 seconds into its spiel. I don’t care what you’re advertising. Even if it’s something that I might be interested in, the surest way to make certain I don’t hear about it is with a giant popup ad in the middle of a webpage. No close button? Then it’s the reload page button. Ad comes up again? Out comes the ad-blocker and now you’re not getting any revenue from my page visit because fuck you and your giant fucking ads in the middle of the content.

This is coming from a guy who will put up with multiple ads along the top, bottom, and sides of a webpage. Hell, I’ll put up with them being wedged awkwardly between every two or three paragraphs of the content itself — like some sites I visit currently do — so long as I can still read the content I went there for in the first place. I’ll even put up with the obvious bullshit click-bait ads being repeated over and over and over again on so many sites like the one here to the right despite the fact that I will never, in a million years, ever click on that ad.

According to one estimate sites are losing out on some big cash thanks to the increase in ad-blocker usage:

A widely cited report from Adobe and anti-ad blocker startup Pagefair estimates that ad blockers could cost the industry $21.8 billion in lost revenue this year — though the figure may have been overinflated by faulty economic reasoning — and that usage grew 41% in the last year.

So it’s no wonder they’re trying to fight back, but surely there’s a compromise that can be found between no advertising at all and loud and obnoxious full screen unstoppable auto-playing video ads. There are a handful of sites I’ve stopped going to altogether because it’s such a pain in the ass wading through all the popup advertisements to get to the content I went there for in the first place. I don’t want to turn my ad-blocker on, but some of these websites are making it harder and harder not to do so. And that’s not even getting into the topic of how many ad services these days are doing a piss-poor job of keeping malicious malware spreading ads out of their systems.

Scale it back a bit and I think you’ll find more people will shut off their ad-blockers. Keep going the way you’re going and it’ll just be an arms race to see who can out program the other.

Nothing worse than an aging I.T. nerd.

WDHDsaleI’m sitting in my cube at work this morning going through my daily routine of checking my work and personal email when I come across an ad from Newegg.com that includes the item over on the right. A 1TB Western Digital HD for a little under $50.

As it is my habit to try and get other people to spend money on stuff they don’t need, I engage in a ritual of reading off this deal to my cubemate who is roughly eleven years older than I am. We both stop to marvel at this price because we’re both old enough to remember life before hard drives.

At this point he pulls out a dry erase marker and starts to write things down on his whiteboard. Back in the day he used to sell computers for a living and he can remember that in 1984 a 10MB hard drive went for about $500. In today’s dollars that comes out to around $1,148.48.  A 10MB drive is equal to about 0.000009536743164063 terabytes. To put it another way, the cost per MB of that 10MB drive in today’s dollars works out to around $114.85. The price per MB of a 1TB drive in today’s dollars is roughly 0.00005.

I can remember a time when us computer nerds spoke of a one terabyte hard drive in hushed, reverent tones as though describing a unicorn. A fantastic, mythical thing that could exist, but probably never would and if it ever did surely it would be so fantastically expensive that we’d never afford one in our lifetime. Oh, but if we did get our hands on one we’d never need another hard drive again cause there’s no way we’d ever fill it up! Just imagine having a hard drive you’d hand down to your children and them to their children and even then it’d probably take another generation of kids to come close to filling it up!

You know you’re getting old when you waste time figuring shit like this out and then shaking your head at how spoiled kids are these days.

Addendum: The first computer I ever bought with my own money was my venerable Amiga 1000. I got a job at McDonalds and took out my first ever loan from a credit union to pay for it. The machine itself cost $1,295 at launch and the CRT monitor was another $300 bringing the total to $1,595 not including sales tax. In today’s dollars that works out to $3,537.43. That boggles my mind.

Mom gets free tech support for life.

Truth.

momstechsupport

John Oliver interview with Edward Snowden.

John Oliver has been knocking it out of the park ever since he left The Daily Show to start his own comedy news show on HBO. Last Week Tonight manages to both entertain and inform and, in some ways, is a better show than TDS. Best of all, HBO and Oliver makes full length segments of the show available on YouTube so you don’t have to pay for HBO to see it.

Each week Oliver picks a topic and does a deep dive on it and this week he’s tackling surveillance and Section 215 of the Patriot Act and how we’re not having the debate we should be about the NSA and domestic spying. It’s a great segment, but it’s even better because he managed to score an interview with the man who arguably made it possible to have this debate, Edward Snowden, and he doesn’t pull any punches with his questions:

Once again I have to marvel at how a comedy news program manages to do better journalism than the supposed news channels. It also breaks things down into a context that is not only funny, but which the average person can comprehend.

As Oliver points out, part of the reason we’re not having this debate is because the subject matter is so highly technical and hard to understand for most folks. It’s doesn’t help that too many people barely pay attention to what’s going on around them. Ask them who Taylor Swift is and they can recite lyrics from her latest single, but ask who Edward Snowden is and too many don’t have a clue. These programs need to be seriously revised and given more transparency, but that’s not going to happen so long as we don’t bother to talk about them.

Finally, this gives me a chance to make use of this:

Would've been funnier back when it was still winter, but fuck it.

Would’ve been funnier back when it was still winter, but fuck it.

Things IT people never say.

Here’s a cute video. Many of these, but not all, are truth.

Many of these are things I have said — “submitting multiple tickets actually does get it done faster” — though in a much more sarcastic fashion making it clear that I am not actually suggesting that approach. I have said that I love Windows and not in a mocking way. Of the available options these days, it’s grown to be one of the best and its flaws do keep me employed.

Several of the lines literally made me laugh out loud. “It’s not about the money, I do it for the chicks” and “I can’t find any guys to play video games with me” being two of them.  I have sincerely said that I feel very appreciated here rather recently. The folks where I work today really do show their appreciation for the job that I do. Though that’s admittedly a rare thing in my career. I have also said that something took less time than I expected it to, but that’s because I often overestimate how long something will take just in case something unexpected pops up during the process. I’ve also said thank you and thanks for being patient, especially when I didn’t overestimate how long something was going to take and something unexpected popped up.

That said, it’s a cute video with much truth in it.

Today’s I Feel Old Video: Kids reacting to an Apple II computer.

The Fine Bros. are at it again. Tormenting today’s youth with the technology of yesteryear. This time out they sit a bunch of them down in front of a venerable Apple II computer to see if they can make heads or tails of it:

I can’t blame the kids for not appreciating the Apple II. It was a pain in the ass compared to the Commodore 64, but I admit to having some bias in that regard. I’m pretty sure they’d have had just as hard a time figuring out a C64. Especially if they had to use a tape drive instead of a floppy drive, but at least the games would’ve been a lot better. And in color!

Couple of things I’ve been working on…

techsupportcatSo this past weekend I thought it was high time I take another crack at designing my own WordPress theme. I figured I’d keep it simple and just adapt the one I used to use on ExpressionEngine over. It’s ugly, but it’s me.

As you can tell by looking at it, I ended up just switching to someone else’s premade theme. It didn’t occur to me that it’s been almost 4 years since we made the move to WordPress (November 7th, 2009) and a lot has changed in that time. Not only do I still not have a good clue how to make a WordPress theme, but all of the tools I used to use to create my crappy HTML have dried up gone away.

I used to use a specialized HTML editor called Homesite which was originally produced by a company named Bradbury Software which was bought by Allaire that was acquired by Macromedia which itself was eventually bought by Adobe. Adobe decided to stop selling Homesite in, as it turns out, May of 2009. I’ve yet to find a replacement editor I like as much and I’ve never mastered WYSIWYG systems. I’d use my old copy of Homesite, but when I bought it it was a digital download and have long since misplaced my copy and its activation key.

The other major tool I used to use was a image editor called Ulead PhotoImpact. It was a moderate skill editor that could do both raster and vector graphics and I’d been using it since 1996 when I created my first website. It’s arguably the one image editing program I’ve ever really mastered. Ulead was acquired by Corel in 2006 and eventually they discontinued development of PhotoImpact in 2008. I have a copy of the last version produced someplace in my mess of CDs, but I haven’t been able to locate it. Fortunately Corel still sells PhotoImpact even if they’re no longer developing it so I can at least pick it up again at some point.

Not having spare cash at the moment, I spent a good chunk of the weekend playing with various free/open source HTML and image editors to see if there was anything that felt close to what I was used to. I’ve been using Paint.NET for awhile and it’s not bad, but it doesn’t open Ulead image files which I ended up using for a lot of SEB’s graphics back in the day. I’ve tried to learn Gimp, but I think it’s way beyond my skill level as it Photoshop (which I could never afford anyway). There’s a couple of OS WYSIWYG HTML editors out there and I haven’t a clue where to begin to figure them out. Most of the text based editors seem to have HTML as a secondary consideration or go so way beyond HTML that they’re full of stuff I don’t need. So I ended up giving up and playing Black Ops II instead. I may take another stab at it in the coming week as I’d really like to bring back the old Halloween layouts, but I’ve not even started on figuring out how to plug the WordPress codes in I’d need to make a template work. The way things are going I wouldn’t hold my breath if you were anticipating my craptastic HTML coding skills to be put to use anytime soon.

bearhookersSo the other thing I’m working on involves trying to offer my tech support skills to a wider audience. Google just started a new service calls Helpouts which makes use of their Hangouts service to allow folks to provide services for free or for a charge. I was invited to be a service provider and I thought I might offer it to help folks dealing with viruses or other technical issues where their PC is still operational enough to handle a Hangouts session. In addition to support video and audio it’ll be possible to grant me access to remotely control your machine to make changes. I’ve not set up a listing yet as I’m still trying to decide what things I could help with or what kind of tutoring I could offer and how much to charge and what hours I’ll be available and so on. A few regulars have asked me for help from time to time over the years and this seemed like a good way to facilitate making it happen more often. It would require folks to have a Google+ account so some might not want to go that route, but for those who don’t mind it’s a flexible option.

I’d love to hear your suggestions on what services you’d think you’d like me to offer and what rates you think would be reasonable. That is assuming there’s still enough folks hanging around with an interest in having my assistance from time to time. I could even help with getting up and running with blogging, though creating custom WordPress themes is obviously out of the question at the moment. Let me know what you think.