Friday, December 2, 2011

Transformers DotM Target-Exclusive Voyager Starscream

I've been posting mostly to Twitter (MichaelWPollard) and to Facebook for those who know me, but this comment, while it will be short, is better suited to a blog post.

I just got the Target-exclusive Starscream Voyager figure. Yes, I'm referring to Transformers. This is the one that's a remake of the Revenge of the Fallen version, in gray with silver tattoos and a red canopy, marketed as a Dark of the Moon figure.

Dave Van Domelen has mostly good comments about the model, and I didn't get the one before because they never got cheap before they sold out. $15 with Target's current sale is pretty cheap for a $30 retail.

The model, design, coloring, and transformation are all pretty good. Unfortunately, quality control is slipping a bit, as sometimes happens with recolored rereleases, which I'd hoped wouldn't happen for a Target version, but it's really got some rough spots. Specifically in two areas.

First, there are two sets of fins, each of which can be detached rather easily. On mine, these were both attached backwards - and they were also attached to the wrong sides of the figure.

Second, the one of the fin joints has a connector tab about 1/4" long that fits in a slot. This tab has a bump in one end and a hole in the other. Unfortunately, one bump is almost non-existant (which means it obviously won't grip its mating hole very well), and one hole smaller in diameter than the bump - which means it won't fit in. The notch width allows the fin to fit in its place, it just doesn't hold on very well.

That said, Starscream looks great in jet mode. And he looks... like the movie version in robot mode. Which is better than the first movie figure, but still suffers from Michael Bay's reimagining of Transformers. Starscream's supposed to be egotistical about his appearance, which is easier if he doesn't look like an ape. But the jet is great, except for hands that are rather obvious sticking out the back. It's a lot better than having whole arms hanging from the underside, which often happens with Starscream lately. And the missiles can mount under the wings. You know, like real jets do. They won't launch there, but they look good.

Thursday, June 23, 2011 Computer technical support by American techs

I mentioned my new job when I started, but haven't said anything to really promote it. And yes, for disclaimer, I work with them.

But if you need software support, is a really good place to get it. All the support techs are in North America, so they understand and speak English. Service satisfaction is guaranteed. And subscriptions are the most popular service - for $19.99 a month, you can call anytime you have a concern.

For what it's worth, we find most computer problems are caused by malware - viruses and such. They've gotten good as slipping around security software. But we don't rely on scanners - we use a variety of tools and techniques to find and remove malware.

And we operate 24/7. I work nights, so I know that first-hand... :P on Facebook on Twitter

OK - I found I have posted before about - here.

Ooma: Still a good deal, just no longer a great deal

Seems Ooma has decided to increase their fees. These are supposedly all taxes and fees that are being charged to them, but I'd note that their primary competitors in the VoIP arena do not charge them. Ooma now charges $30-$50/year in taxes and fees, but the service charge for MagicJack (which is lousy, but still a competitor) is $19.95/year, and netTALK is $29.95/year, both including any taxes and/or fees.

Now, one could argue that Ooma's equipment and service are both better than either of those (and this is definitely the case for MagicJack), and that the cost is still well less than most competitors (such as Vonage at $19.99/month), but I wonder why Ooma has to charge these junk fees when closer competitors don't.

For those unfamiliar, Ooma promises free phone service for life, after the purchase of the equipment. But some time back, they added the asterisk: Taxes and fees are required. These started at, if I remember correctly, somewhat under $12 a year.

Fortunately, some older users (such as myself) got grandfathered in with no annual taxes/fees - for now anyway, but some that were $12/year, who had been considered grandfathered at that rate, just got news that their costs are going up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dell Sales and Technical Support: Poor in Technical and Support.

Update: See the Comments for follow-up.

I contacted Sales via chat looking for a computer recommendation. My requirements were simple: A Sandy Bridge (second-generation) Core i5 processor and the ability for 3 simultaneous displays.

The agent said that a Radeon HD 5670 video card would work for me, and gave me this link. He may have said that I needed a 5770 and linked a 5670, but the Dell chat system removes all model numbers from the chat logs.

He then gave me a quote, and I bought the complete quote, even though it had some items I didn't want. (I didn't want the security software and didn't need the speakers, but a later agent who tried to take them off wound up with a much higher price for less, and apologized, "I'm sorry the promotions changed").

Similarly, I didn't argue much concerning specific card models because different cards have different features, and your configurator gives very little detail about the actual cards. I mentioned that a forum post said that the system will only handle three displays if one of the ports is DisplayPort, and the agent said that the onboard video includes DisplayPort and that I can use them together. I pointed out that the pictures do not indicate DisplayPort is onboard, and he responded, "yes, but it is guaranteed as included."

The agent gave me a quote, and I bought from the quote provided. I realized only later that the quote only had a Radeon HD 5450, not the 5670 he had originally specified. Again, since the limitations are, to my understanding, based on offered ports and not the chipsets, and since the configurator gives zero information as to the ports or any other specific features of the cards offered, I am relying on the agent's expertise.

When I got the computer, I set it up. And had difficulties getting three displays to work. Both onboard ports were capped and disabled in BIOS; presumably there is a reason for this. I expect this is due to the system design; it's quite common that onboard video does not work with an add-in card. But the onboard video did not have DisplayPort anyway, only HDMI and VGA, despite the strong assurances of the sales agent. The add-in card has HDMI, VGA and DVI, and despite being told that it would not support three displays, I tried anyway, unsuccessfully of course.

Then I contacted Technical Support via chat. And was told that three simultaneous displays requires "Ati 5770". Nevertheness, he connected to my computer and played with my system settings for the next hour, and of course ended the same as it started: only two displays would work at a time. Any two of the three, but only two.

His solution: He will send me a DVI splitter, which will let me connect two single-link DVI monitors to the dual-link DVI port. Which means I am limited to single-link displays and separate audio cables. I was going to use a DisplayPort to HDMI adapter which would pass audio, and would like the ability to go to a higher-resolution display later, such as the Dell 3008wfp or U3011.

In summary, I seem to need an ATI Radeon 5770 card to meet one of the two only requirements for the system. But the sales agent linked a 5670 which he insisted would work. And he then quoted a 5450. And their "solution" is to use a splitter rather than actually fixing the problem.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Interesting and Different" for supper

On the idea of "interesting and different", I fixed something a little "different" for supper. A 36oz can of white hominy, 15oz can of garbanzo beans, a pound of smoked sausage (1/4"-thick half-slices), and cajun seasonings (1/2 tsp each black pepper and paprika, 1 tbsp each dry chopped onion and jarred minced garlic, and 1/4tsp cayenne power). Simmered all but the sausage for probably 10min while cutting the sausage, then another 20min.

Never used hominy before, but got some for free - nobody else wanted it, and I didn't want to see it wasted. The out-of-the-can texture could be best compared to popcorn packed in water. It tastes like lumpy grits, so it actually works quite well with lots of stuff, just very different than regular corn. Made a really good down-home soup. I'll gladly get more hominy next time it comes up - for free anyway.