Three Hours, 52 Minutes left

I haven’t had much to say for the past few weeks, so I haven’t updated my blog. I still don’t have that much to say, and there’s a party going on around me (we’re about to get to the double-blind comparison of Pepsi and Coke), but I didn’t want 2002 to pass unremarked.

May you have a wonderful 2003!

Another reason to love broadband at home

The power went out at our house about 11:30pm last night; it was still out when I left for work this morning, and PG&E wasn’t making any promises about when it might be restored. I called them a few times during the day and their automated system had no information for me — so I started a ping going to my DSL router, and a few minutes ago, it started responding, letting me know that power has been restored. Now to find out if the food in the freezer and refrigerator is still good….I guess I have to wait until I get home to do that, though, since I don’t have an Internet-enabled refrigerator!

Two steps forward, two steps back

It’s Jeffrey’s fault. He’s a big Star Trek fan, and enjoys playing Star Trek games on the computer. Star Trek Starfleet Command III was released just before Chanukkah, and he wanted it — but his three-year-old computer didn’t meet the hardware requirements.

So I thought about upgrading his computer. I tried to get away cheaply with more memory and a processor upgrade; a local shop, Surplus Computers, sells trailing-edge components at reasonable prices. The slowest CPU they had was a 1.1GHz Celeron, and according to the website for Jeffrey’s motherboard, it should have worked. But it didn’t — so I went back and bought a new Slot 1 to Socket 370 converter. Still no dice; I looked around more carefully and discovered that his motherboard only supported Celerons with 128KB caches, and I’d bought one with a 256KB cache (and the other variety was no longer available). But there was a vendor who sold a special converter which would support the new processor, and I thought about buying it — but then I went on my trip to the land of snow and had other problems to deal with.

It’s my brother’s fault. He called me last week to ask what Jeffrey wanted for Chanukkah, and I told him Star Trek Starfleet Command III, thinking I’d be able to manage the upgrade. So a box showed up on Saturday containing the game, and I was clearly committed to doing an upgrade soon.

I looked harder at the option of buying the new converter, and decided it would be a mistake — I’d have to piggyback it on my existing Slot 1 converter, and I didn’t know if that would work. So I decided to get a new motherboard which would support a faster processor.

You can’t buy motherboards which take Socket 370 CPUs anymore, at least not at Fry’s, Central Computers, or PixelUSA. And the motherboards at Surplus Computers seemed to predate the CPU I’d bought, so I didn’t want to go that way, either (especially since they have a “no refund” policy). But Fry’s was selling a 1.7GHz Celeron with a brand new motherboard for only $90, so I decided to go that way and write off the CPU I’d already bought.

Of course, the Celeron in the package was a bare CPU, so I also had to buy a fan, bringing the damages up to $102 plus tax, but that still didn’t seem too bad — and the guy at Fry’s assured me that it would be easy to install. I’d never replaced the motherboard in any of my machines — I’d done everything else, even upgrading the CPU in the days of the 8088 and the V20 — but I was willing to give it a try.

So Saturday evening, I backed up some critical data from Jeffrey’s machine and started unbuilding it. That was easy; putting in the new motherboard was easy (though I found that the case didn’t have an opening for the built-in networking on the board). Installing the CPU was a little harder, mostly because the directions didn’t tell me I had to install the retention mechanism on the bottom of the board until after I’d already fastened the board down — but that only cost me a few minutes. And adding the fan and heatsink was easy.

Then I powered it up, and…nothing. No beep, no video, no nothing.

I unassembled the fan from the CPU and made sure that the CPU was properly in the socket; it was. Still nothing.

So I took out everything but the video card, the CPU, and one stick of memory — nothing.

By this time, it was late in the evening and I decided to sleep on the problem.

Sunday, I went to the web for advice. A quick Google on “no beeps” suggested taking the video card out, too, and seeing what happened. So I did, and nothing happened.

I wondered if I’d broken the speaker somehow, so I put the old motherboard back in — and the computer beeped, the video worked, and generally everything behaved perfectly.

A couple of more attempts got me no farther. So I drove back to Fry’s and exercised their return policy, which worked perfectly. The guy at the return counter thought that I might just have too small a power supply (250 watt), but I decided that I didn’t want to take the chance of running over the return period while experimenting and got my money back, instead.

Then I put Jeffrey’s machine back together the way it was and declared victory. Besides, his three-year-old video card probably wouldn’t have been up to the task anyway.

I guess we’ve got some shopping ahead of us. Hmmm…I wonder if I should just give him my one-year-old machine and get something good for myself?

Open Letter to Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital

I realize that the Times website needs to make money, and that advertising is the way you do it — but your latest method of advertising is so obtrusive and annoying that I’d rather give up reading your website than put up with it.

I refer to your recent practice of trapping my browser when I try to leave the website, forcing me to stay on an advertisment for several seconds (the “Skip this ad” link does nothing, at least for me). I can understand the practice of introducing an ad when I enter your website, or change from page to page within the website (though I don’t like it), but when I’ve clicked on a link outside the website, or when I’ve manually entered a new address in the browser’s navigation bar, I’ve done it because I am finished with your website and want to go elsewhere. Forcing me to stare at an ad at that point is extremely hostile behavior — it does not make me want to return to your site, nor to patronize that advertiser.

I hope to hear that you’ve dropped this scheme; I will be happy to return to the Times website when that happens.

— David Singer

The Times replies:

Thank you for writing to The New York Times on the Web.

We appreciate your feedback and have passed your comments on to our Advertising Department.

Thanks for taking the time to write to us.


Elizabeth Jones

The New York Times on the Web

Customer Service

Blue skies

I’m still in White Plains, still at the hotel. But that’s only because I’m not yet ready to leave, not because of the weather.

And I guess I didn’t really have to stay at the hotel here overnight; they reopened the runway at White Plains and my flight departed at 11:29pm, arriving in O’Hare at 12:39am Central time. So I could have spent another 5-1/2 hours at White Plains airport, then hoped to find a place to stay near O’Hare. Somehow, I think I made the right decision bailing when I did.

This morning dawned partly cloudy and not too cold; I worked out in the hotel’s exercise room, then walked over to a nearby diner to have breakfast (I’m sure the hotel restaurant would have been fine, but I wanted to be outside for a change!). And now I’m back in my room waiting until it’s closer to flight time and doing a bit of work and weblogging to pass the time away.

Shabbat Shalom!

Oh, Lord, Stuck in White Plains Again!

I thought I was being smart by combining two trips into one — I had to be in Westchester County this week anyway for the IBM Academy of Technology Technology Council meeting, and I thought I’d add a visit to Lotus near Boston. It’s an easy 3.5 hour drive.

Unless it’s snowing.

This morning, I excused myself from the meeting a few minutes early so I could take off for Boston. It was snowing steadily but not too heavily (I didn’t need a scraper to get anything off the car, brushing it off with my gloves was adequate and easy), so I hoped I’d be able to make good time.

On my way up the Saw Mill River Parkway, I saw three accidents (all in the southbound lanes; I was going North). But the roads weren’t too bad, and I was able to drive about 45 mph and feel confident doing it.

Then I got onto I-684. The road was unplowed (I don’t think more than an inch of snow had fallen yet), and traffic was slow. People were driving 25-30 mph and they were drifting all over the road. And the snow was falling more heavily — I was having a hard time keeping my windshield clear.

So I decided to punt on the trip to Boston and called one of the people I was to meet; she was sorry I couldn’t make it but agreed to let everyone else know. Then I got off the freeway to turn around and head back to White Plains airport. Getting off the freeway was easy; making the left turn onto the cross-street was easy; stopping at the traffic light before getting back onto the freeway was not easy. I’d never felt ABS working before; fortunately, I knew what the pulsing in the brake pedal meant and didn’t panic. And after a few seconds, the car stopped, and I was then able to make the left turn and go south.

I was a scofflaw; I called the travel agent to get rebooked while I was moving. I wasn’t moving very fast, but the pavement was somewhat clearer on the southbound side. And after just a couple of minutes, I was rebooked on a flight leaving White Plains at 12:58pm; it was only 10:30, and I was only 10 miles away from the airport, so things looked good.

The trip to the airport was uneventful, and I didn’t even see any more accidents. I was in the Hertz lot at 11, and at the counter at 11:05. But by that time, American had cancelled the 12:58, and I was booked on the 2:58.

So I waited. And had lunch. And waited. And read the newspaper (two of them). And waited. There doesn’t appear to be any way to connect a computer to the Internet at White Plains, at least not without paying 50 cents a minute to use a special phone — and I’ve never seen anyone use those special phones. I didn’t, either.

2:21 arrived, and the incoming plane was due to land. It landed, but there were no gates available (White Plains is a small airport). Eventually, they gave up waiting for a gate with a jetway, and they brought steps over to the plane and let people off about 3:15. They let us on at 4:00.

We de-iced while the runways were being plowed; we pushed back around 4:45, got to the end of the runway, and waited. After a time, the pilot came on and said we hadn’t quite made the window for using the runway, because a private plane had landed and had skidded off the runway, so it was closed until they could tow it away and plow the runway again (the same thing had happened earlier in the day, when it had been snowing very heavily).

At 6, the pilot told us that the news was “not good”, that the private plane was still there, and that we were going back to the gate. An agent boarded and told us that we could get off and go into the terminal to eat but only if we took all of our stuff, and that there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to make it back onto the plane in time to leave with it. Oh, and that the earliest departure time was now 7.

That meant that I had no chance of making my connection in Chicago, and that I was unlikely to make the last flight of the night, either. So I called my travel agent to see if they could find me a room in White Plains (I had had one earlier, but I cancelled it when I got on the plane at 4pm. Oops). The Crowne Plaza had one, but it would cost $173 (compared to my $79 rate at the Hilton that I’d given up). They also had a much less expensive room in Norwalk, but it was 30 minutes away in good weather.

I took the room at the Crowne Plaza.

And here I am. I spent the first hour here talking to the travel agent and American to make sure I was properly booked for tomorrow’s flights, and then I wanted to go out to eat. But everything’s closed due to the snow (including the big mall across the street), so I ordered room service. If I’d known how long it would take me with the travel agent and American, I would have ordered food first (that’s not a complaint — they were very busy and very helpful). But now I’ve got food in my belly and I’m comfortable.

The weather’s supposed to be better tomorrow.


The flight I was on [briefly] still hasn’t taken off. According to flight tracking info, it looks like it pushed back at least once and turned back (American claimed it had left at 8:08, but it currently shows up as still being on the ground, and the FAA says White Plains is still closed).